Tag Archive | George Frideric Handel

Amusements of London: The Masked Assembly

Amusements of Old London

William B. Boulton, 1901

“… an attempt to survey the amusements of Londoners during a period which began… with the Restoration of King Charles the Second and ended with the accession of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.”

The Ridotto in Venice, Pietro Longhi, 1750's

The Ridotto in Venice, Pietro Longhi, 1750’s

The wearing of masks to disguise one’s identity was nothing new when the “quasi heathenish fêtes” of the medieval Venetians spread to 17th century England. After all, inquisitors, executioners, and highwaymen wore them as they completed their odious business. Pagan rites such as Bacchanalia and Saturnalia and the fêtes des innocents or fêtes de fous were masked revels in which participants could, along with their attire, shed their normal scruples and give way to their impulses. While there are accounts of masked events in Henry VIII’s court as well as the some of the Stuarts’, the “true masquerade,” where all guests were dressed in costume, was a long time coming to England from the Continent, probably because of its foreign origin in a Papist country.

It was only at the beginning of the 18th century that moralizing on the subject of masquerades began to appear in publications such as The Tatler and The Spectator.

It is worthy of note that the masked assembly was never an institution that had any great vogue among the common people, either in this country, or elsewhere. The wearing of masks or of disguises in private life was from very early times the exclusive privilege of the great or of those who imitated them.

Constables or police who raided some of these events discovered prominent men and women among the masked revelers and eventually released them.

The High Constable of Westminster descended upon a masquerade at midnight and made a great haul, which he duly displayed before Mr. Fielding. That eminent magistrate sat up all night to hear the charge, “but several of them being found to be persons of distinction, the justice, not thinking it proper to expose them, after a severe reprimand, dismissed them all.

“The women either come by themselves,” says Addison, describing the amenities of the masquerade of 1711, “or are introduced by friends, who are obliged to quit them upon their first entrance to the conversation of anybody that addresses himself to them.” This by the way was one of the rules of the true masquerade, which was its chief attraction for the frisky maid or matron of those days. Introductions were unknown, and absolute incognito was possible for all who wished to preserve it. The mask and domino were inviolable, except indeed to the police, and any infringement of that rule by a masker led to the inevitable chastisement of the offender by the other men in the room, of which there are numerous fatal results recorded. “But,” continues Mr. Addison, “there are several rooms where the parties may retire and show their faces by consent.”

The subject of masquerades evoked the growing censure of the press for the next half century, but “the masquerade absolutely throve on opposition.” The Bishop of London’s scathing sermons had no effect, nor did the satirical prints and prose that was disseminated throughout the city.

There were strange financial proposals too from amateur chancellors of the exchequer, who proposed to levy taxes upon all tickets for those ungodly diversions and to devote the proceeds to the Foundling Hospital, an institution which they declared was populated by the amours which were kindled by the opportunities of the masquerade. Grave statisticians drew attention to what they contended was an appalling fact, that the vogue of the masquerade quadrupled the normal number of divorces, and pious God-fearing people, whose nerves were sorely shaken by the two smart shocks of earthquake which startled London towards the middle of the century, pointed to the judgment of heaven which these unholy revels were calling upon the town.

It was precisely during the period of this continued opposition, which stretched practically from the days of Queen Anne to those of George the Third, that the masquerade established itself as one of the chief amusements of the upper classes of society in London. Middle class England might still cherish its memories of the Puritans, but there were other views in high quarters, and a mere newspaper agitation was of little effect in a day when four-fifths of the popular could not read. The diversions of an aristocracy, too, were moderately safe from interference by legislation provided by a Parliament whose two houses were composed of the aristocracy and its nominees. The well-born and well-placed classes of Anne and the Georges, in short, with King George the Second at their head, enjoyed the fredaines of the masquerade, and determined to keep them in spite of the bishops and the moralists of the press. And they succeeded perfectly.

The appearance of “party organizers” such as “Beau Nash in Bath, Robert Arthur at White’s Club, William Brooks at Brooks’s, Almack at his Assembly Rooms in King Street, Crockford at the big gaming club in St. James’s Street” had considerable influence on the amusements of late Georgian aristocrats.

John James Heidegger

The son of a pastor from Zurich, Heidegger “wandered about Europe for a quarter of a century living by his wits and acquiring knowledge of men and cities.” He came to England at the age of fifty and enlisted in the Guards, “a regiment in which you might at that time find very well-born men among the rank and file.” Known as the “Swiss Count,” his face was considered one of the ugliest ever seen. It is said that Lord Chesterfield, in lieu of paying his bill, told his tailor, a Mr. Jolly, that “he would not pay him until he could produce an uglier man than himself.” Mr. Jolly showed up with Heidegger and promptly received his money. A measure of Heidegger’s social success is the fact that he was accepted as a member of the very exclusive White’s Club.

john_james_heidegger_by_john_faberHeidegger possessed extraordinary organizational and entrepreneurial skills. His first venture, which involved producing an opera at the Queen’s Theatre in Haymarket, brought him much financial success, and established him as a theatre consultant.

The great world took him up and caressed him; princes gave him amethyst snuff-boxes set in gold; if my lady wanted a rout arranged at her mansion, or if there was a musical entertainment or a dancing assembly to be arranged at a public room, Mr. Heidegger was called in and did the thing to perfection.

King George I loved him and made him manager of His Majesty’s Theatre in Haymarket, where he worked with Handel on producing an opera. And then he set his mind to improving masquerades (which delighted the king even more than opera).

Unfortunately, many in the theater community resented the popularity of masquerades, seeing it as competition for their own offerings. There were also plenty of rumors of gamesters, women of the street, and even highwaymen present at these affairs. But with the king’s support, Heidegger had no fear of the naysayers—the pamphleteers and moralizers and disgruntled theatre people. (Theresa Cornelys was not so fortunate.) “Heidegger boasted of making £5000 a  year by this business.” At one point, when the king signed a royal proclamation against masquerades, Heidegger called the next one a ridotto, and not only got away with it, but the king was one of the guests!

“Thou Heidegger the English taste has found

And rul’st the mob of quality with sound’

In Lent, if masquerades displease the town

Call ’em ridottos, and they will still go down.

Go on, Prince Phiz, to please the British nation

Call thy next masquerade a convocation.”

Heidegger’s legacy to the British people, according to the London Post, was the perfected masquerade. Even after his death in 1749, the masquerade continued to flourish in several new buildings around town.

Ranelagh

ranelagh_gardens_eighteenth_century_original

The Rotunda at Ranelagh, 142 feet in diameter, proved to be an attractive venue for masquerades. There was no stage for actors and thus it was not competition for theaters. After a very successful “Jubilee Masquerade in the Venetian manner,” on 1st May 1749 to celebrate the peace in that year, “it was determined to repeat it in the form of a subscription masquerade.” Horace Walpole writes:

When you entered you found the whole garden filled with masks and spread with tents, which remained all night very commodely. In one quarter was a maypole dressed with garlands, and people dancing round it to a tabor and pipe and rustic music, all masked, as were all the various bands of music, which were disposed in different parts of the garden, some like huntsmen with French horns, some like peasants, and a troupe of harlequins and scaramouches in the little open temple on the mount. On the canal was a sort of gondola adorned with flags and streamers, and filled with music rowing about. All round the outside of the amphitheatre were shops filled with Dresden China, Japan, &cc., and all the shopkeepers in mask. The amphitheatre was illuminated, and in the middle was a circular bower composed of all kinds of firs in tubs, from twenty to thirty feet high, under the orange trees, with small lamps in each orange, and below them all sorts of the finest auriculus in pots and festoons of natural flowers hanging from tree to tree. There were booths for tea and wine, gaming-tables, and dancing, and about two thousand persons. In short, it pleased me more than anything I ever saw.

The Inauguration of the Pantheon in Oxford Street (1772)

sophia-baddeleyIt was rumored that the managers were set against inviting women with less-than-stellar reputations, i.e. actresses and demimondaines. Sophia Baddeley was one such actress with high connections—she was Lord Melbourne’s mistress at the time—and a score or so of her supporters assembled at Pall Mall and escorted her chair to St. James’s Street, where they were joined by even more fine gentlemen from White’s. The procession continued all the way to the Pantheon, whereupon they took out their swords and frightened the porters who were ordered to deny her entrance. This allowed the triumphant Sophia to march into the “fine room under a long canopy made by the crossed swords of her gallant escort.” Eventually, the managers made their apologies to her, and two duchesses “came forward to express to Mrs. Baddeley the pleasure it gave their graces to welcome such an ornament to the assembly.”

Mrs. Cornelys of Carlisle House

was the second person to make a business of organizing amusements for the upper classes. Her story was featured in an earlier post on this blog. Click here to read more.

hogarth-masqueradesoperas

The Bad Taste of the Town (also known as Masquerades and Operas) is an early print by William Hogarth, published in February 1723/24. The small print mocks the contemporary fashion for foreign culture, including Palladian architecture, pantomimes based on the Italian commedia dell’arte, masquerades (masked balls), and Italian opera.

 

Amusements of Old London series

Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

Before Vauxhall, professional, high quality music was expensive and therefore restricted to the wealthy. Because it was usually performed in private drawing rooms or concert halls, the concept of performing it in the open air was also a novelty. At a time when music from past masters was popular, Tyers introduced music by contemporary English or London-based composers. Oftentimes, the music (and the musicians) were the same as those performing in London theaters during the winter.

Tyers exposed a substantially larger audience to serious music than had ever been possible or even conceivable before. The fact that he did so in a setting where the audience could choose to listen or not, and could choose where to listen from, fundamentally transformed the public’s experience of musical performance, and led to a much wider and easier acceptance of the concert as a public entertainment.

Instrumental Music

Following the construction of the Orchestra building, which resolved several acoustical issues from performing in the open air, in 1735, music became

the crucial ingredient in setting the tone for an evening at Vauxhall. It promoted relaxed enjoyment, and its rational elegance was a catalyst for good behaviour and conversation among the company.

The unusual experience of listening to music in the open air and, after dark… held a very special allure for the audience. There is no doubt that music heard from a distant point of the garden… would have been attractive, providing a good excuse to lure members of the opposite sex away from the crowded Grove… On her eventful visit to Vauxhall, Fanny Burney’s heroine Evelina was particularly impressed by its al fresco music, if not seduced by its freedoms… Despite the disagreeable company, she recounts that

There was a concert, in the course of which, a hautbois concerto was so charmingly played that I could have thought myself upon enchanted ground, had I had spirits more gentle to associate with. The Hautboy in the open air is heavenly.

Click here for a previous post about the Orchestra.

The construction of the Organ building, and the installation of the massive organ, resolved the problem of volume, since its range could reach throughout the gardens, and even beyond. Click here for a previous post about the Organ.

Handel and Vauxhall

Squidgeworth found a friend!

Squidgeworth found a friend at the Foundling Museum

Just as Handel’s statue dominated the Grove, his music dominated Vauxhall’s repertory for a hundred years. Handel and Tyers had a mutually beneficial relationship that likely developed into close friendship. Tyers’s press articles tended to focus only on Handel’s music, and the promotion of his music before the crowds of Vauxhall helped him rise to popular fame.

Vocal Music

Due to a concern for propriety, Tyers resisted song at Vauxhall for at least a dozen years. By this time, Vauxhall was being criticized for “the absence of song on the grounds that, without lyrics, music ‘lacked interpretation,’ and was therefore less conducive to good humour among the audience.”

Soon after, Cecilia Young, a soprano who later married Vauxhall’s music director, Thomas Arne, was engaged, and the “introduction of song as a regular element of the programme launched the most perennial popular feature of the Vauxhall evening.”

Thomas_Augustine_Arne_portrait_by_Zoffany

Thomas Arne

Thomas Arne’s ballads “were, from 1745, regularly performed at the gardens to huge applause, and they were published in the first Vauxhall songbook, Lyric Harmony, which appeared in September of that year.” Arne’s songs, which were lighthearted and natural, appealed to a wide array of people, and thus fit in with Tyers’s own philosophy to make the arts available to all.

The lyrics of Vauxhall songs… are basically in the pastoral and romantic ballad style that evolved in the late seventeenth century from a long tradition of popular song… Over the next few decades, ballads absorbed influences from other popular music forms, particularly Italian opera, to become the genre known as the Vauxhall song.

rule_britannia_01a

Thomas Arne’s version of “God Save the King” was first performed at Drury Lane in 1745. He also wrote, “Rule Britannia,” another patriotic song. Click here to hear the latter song on the BBC website. I’m sure you will find it familiar.

A second genre that was to become popular with Vauxhall audiences was the patriotic song, one of the earliest types to be regularly heard at the gardens. Exploiting topical events as they did, they highlighted the link between the dutiful virtus of victorious military action and the pleasurable voluptas enjoyed by Vauxhall’s visitors, fully complementing the ideals behind Tyers’s management.

The songs regularly sung at Vauxhall and the other gardens enjoyed a wide currency. They were published not only as songsheets and in songbooks, but also in periodicals, particularly women’s magazines. Among the moral tales, romances, fashion hints, poetry, recipes and other items thought suitable for female consumption, editors of magazines such as the Ladies Complete Pocket Book or the Universal Magazine would often slip in the ‘favourite new songs’ being featured at the pleasure gardens in the current season, to be enjoyed by Vauxhall’s many “armchair” visitors around the country.

Besides the salary paid by Tyers and passes to allow them to come and go as they wished, “well-loved singers were rewarded by the audience who threw money at their feet.”

A thirty-two-year-old Oliver Goldsmith described a visit to the gardens around 1760, full of praise for the singers and the band.

The satisfaction which I received the first night I went there was greater than my expectations; I went in company of several friends of both sexes, whose virtues I regard and judgments I esteem. The music, the entertainments, but particularly the singing, diffused that good humour among us which constitutes the true happiness of Society.

Music after Jonathan Tyers’s death

After 1761, ownership was taken over by Tyers’s son, Jonathan Tyers the younger, and very little changed at first, until the early 1780’s, when strolling bands were introduced, possibly as an economic gesture, and the quality of music declined.

The introduction of Haydn’s compositions in 1783 marked the faltering start of a new era at Vauxhall. Haydn soon gained a wide following, even toppling Handel from his long-running supremacy.

Regular press advertisements detailing the evening’s program appeared in 1786, when Bryant Barrett, Jonathan Tyers the younger’s son-in-law, took over management of the gardens. Apparently he believed the audience to be more sophisticated about music and thus more interested in knowing beforehand what would be included.

James Hook

James Hook

James Hook, Vauxhall’s music director from the early 1770s until 1821, composed over two thousand songs specifically for Vauxhall and performed an organ concerto every evening at closing time.

…each season introduced an entirely new crop of songs, numbering between thirty and forty-five, with no repeats from previous years; the most popular songs received as many as fifty performances through the season… Most of the half dozen or so singers employed each year appeared every evening, Monday to Saturday, from mid-May to late August. This represented around eighty-five evenings out of a hundred—a tough programme for any performer, especially when singing out of doors.

The Vauxhall Effect

As a music promoter, Tyers was unusual at the time in not being a professional musician himself; it was his judgement and business sense that determined his visitors’ experience, and dictated the selection of people he employed to take his vision forward. The renown of his performers was less important than their ability to express a particular house style.

Performers at Vauxhall

For a list of performers at Vauxhall (musical and otherwise), check this website: Vauxhall Gardens: 1661-1859.

 

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever

Susana’s 2015 English Adventure: Week 3

house copy

Harewood House

Harewood

On Monday I took an early train north to York, left my suitcase at the hotel, and headed off to Harewood (which can be pronounced either hairwood or hahrwood, depending on the person with whom you are speaking).

My overall reaction to Harewood is… Robert Adam! I don’t know how the man got around to accomplishing so much in England’s great houses in one lifetime, but from now on I will judge all of the ones I visit by the quality of their Robert Adam touches (or lack of it).

ceiling5 copy

Oh yes, I suppose I should mention the excellent work by Charles Barry and the Chippendale furniture too. Utterly fabulous!

In later years, Harewood was the home of Queen Elizabeth’s aunt, the Princess Mary, after she married the sixth Earl of Harewood, Henry Lascelles, who served in the First World War.

Photos of Harewood

Castle Howard

Castle Howard was originally built in 1700 by the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, who was a younger son of the Duke of Norfolk. Yes, Catherine Howard, unfortunate fifth wife of Henry VIII, was of the same family, but she predated the house. John Vanbrugh, the architect, was also the architect for Blenheim Palace, which is spectacular in itself.

The 4th and 5th earls traveled widely on the continent and were great collectors. The current earl lives at another house, and this one is owned by a private trust, headed by Carlisle family members.

CastleHoward2 copy

Castle Howard is well-known for being the setting of the popular Brideshead Revisited television series.

The 6th countess was the eldest daughter of the 5th Duke of Devonshire and his wife Georgiana. She became the mother of 12 children, and you can see her bedroom in the photos.

Photos of Castle Howard

Haworth

One of my favorite books of all time is Jane Eyre, and I loved Wuthering Heights as well. So visiting the parsonage where the Brontë family lived with their vicar father was a significant milestone. Very different from the magnificent houses I’ve been visiting on this trip! Startling to hear that nearly half of all children born at this time died before the age of six, and poor Rev. Brontë saw his wife and all his children die before he did.

paintingbyBranwell

Photos of Haworth

The Foundling Museum

If you ever wondered what happened to England’s abandoned children, this museum tells the sobering story of the Foundling Hospital, Britain’s first home for abandoned children. Mothers who left their children there also left tokens (buttons, jewelry, coins, or whatever they had) to identify their children in case their circumstances changed and they could claim them someday. Unfortunately, most of the children were never claimed. At the ages of 9-14, children were sent away to be apprentices or servants. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but at least the children were fed and clothed and educated up to a point, which was certainly better than being left to die in the streets, which was a common practice in some areas. Sadly, much of society shunned the offspring of prostitutes or unmarried couples and really didn’t consider it a great loss if they died.

One mother left a Vauxhall season pass as a token for her child

One mother left a Vauxhall season pass as a token for her child

Another focus of the museum is the founder, Thomas Coram, as well as supporters William Hogarth and George Frideric Handel and a large collection of paintings donated to the hospital that were used to entice potential contributors to come to the hospital.

Squidgeworth found a friend!

Squidgeworth found a friend!

See photos here.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Beautiful and impressive. Admiral Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington are buried in the crypt.

GTO 225 London.qxp:Regional Update.qxd

See photos here.

York

Spent a day walking around York and shopping. Did the Richard III Experience and Squidgeworth got put in jail for a short time, but he smiled all the way through it. Nothing gets him down, not even getting shut up in that tiny cell.

yorkprison

See photos here.

 

Sadly, less than a week remains before Squidgeworth and I fly back across the pond.

So much to see, so little time!