Tag Archive | masquerade

Romance of London: Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House

Romance of London: Strange Stories, Scenes And Remarkable Person of the Great Town in 3 Volumes

John Timbs

John Timbs (1801-1875), who also wrote as Horace Welby, was an English author and aficionado of antiquities. Born in Clerkenwell, London, he was apprenticed at 16 to a druggist and printer, where he soon showed great literary promise. At 19, he began to write for Monthly Magazine, and a year later he was made secretary to the magazine’s proprietor and there began his career as a writer, editor, and antiquarian.

This particular book is available at googlebooks for free in ebook form. Or you can pay for a print version.

Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House

Teresa Cornelys - Carlisle House Soho

Teresa Cornelys at Carlisle House, Soho

Teresa, by birth a German, and during man-years a public singer in Italy and Germany, settled in London about the year 1756, and for twenty years entertained “the votaries of fashion of both sexes” with great success. For this purpose Mrs. Cornelys obtained possession of Carlisle House, in Soho Square, formerly the mansion of the Earl of Carlisle.

Carlisle House

View of Soho Square and Carlisle House

View of Soho Square and Carlisle House

Carlisle House was of considerable extent: the Catholic chapel in Sutton Street was the banqueting-room, and the connecting passage between it and the house in Soho Square was called “the Chinese Bridge.” The arched entrance below the chapel was exclusively for chairs or sedans.

Mrs. Cornelys's assembly room at Carlisle House

Mrs. Cornelys’s assembly room at Carlisle House

The Antecedent of Almack’s?


The nobility and gentry had the entrée of Carlisle House by payment of an annual subscription, for which they received a ticket of admission to all entertainments given there. They had the privilege of lending their tickets to friends, provided they wrote “the name of the person upon the back of the said ticket to whom they have lent it, to prevent any mistake.” Mrs. Cornelys had great success; but she had her troubles in powerful competitors; for we find her issuing this advertisement: “Whereas, it is been industriously reported, to the disadvantage of Mrs. Cornelys, that she has expressed herself dissatisfied with a subscription now on foot to build a large room in opposition to her; she esteems it her duty, in this public manner, to declare that she never once entertained a thought so unjust and unreasonable…” The “large room” here referred to in opposition is thus referred to by Horace Walpole, in a letter dated Dec. 16, 1764: “Mrs. Cornelys, apprehending the future assembly at Almack’s, has enlarged her vast room, and hung it with blue satin, and other with yellow satin; but Almack’s room, which is to be 90 feet long, proposes to swallow up both hers, as easily as Moses’s rod gobbled down those of the magician’s.” However, Mrs. Cornelys made additions to Carlisle House, with new embellishments, furniture, and decorations, which in the year 1765 cost some 2,000l… in consequence of which she was compelled to charge subscribers an additional guinea.

A musical evening at Carlisle House

A musical evening at Carlisle House

The ball on Feb. 26, 1770

…Mrs. Cornelys gave a magnificent fête to some 800 maskers. Walpole devotes great part of a long letter to a description of this masquerade, at which he was present.

Our civil war has been lulled asleep by a Subscription Masquerade, for which the House of Commons literally adjourned yesterday. Instead of Fairfax’s and Cromwells, we have had a crowd of Henry the Eighths, Wolseys, Vandykes, and Harlequins; and because Wilkes was not mask enough, we had a man dressed like him, with a visor in imitation of his squint, and a Cap of Liberty on a pole… The ball was last night at Soho; and, if possible, was more magnificent than the King of Denmark’s…

…The mob was beyond all belief: they held flambeaux to the windows of every coach and demanded to have the masks pulled off and put on at their pleasure, but with extreme good humor and civility. I was with my Lady Hertford and two of her daughters in her coach: the mob took me for Lord Hertford, and huzzaed and blessed me! One fellow cried out, “Are you for Wilkes?” Another said, “D—n you, you fool, what has Wilkes to do with a masquerade?”

Among the company were Lady Waldegrave, Lady Pembroke, the Duchess of Hamilton, Mrs. Crewe, Mrs. Hodges, Lady Algeria Carpenter, &c. The characters assumed were very eccentric. Sir R. Phillips appeared as “a double man,” half-miller, half chimney-sweeper. The Earl of Carlisle figured as a running footman; Mr. James, the painter, as Midas. The Duke of Devonshire was “very fine, but in no particular character.” And “Lord Edg—b, in the character of an old woman, was full as lovely as his lady.” The ladies were superbly dressed. “The Countess Dowager of Waldegrave wore a dress richly trimmed with beads and pearls, in the character of Jane Shore.” “The Duchess of Bolton, in the character of Diana, was captivating.” “Lady Stanhope, as Melpomene, was a striking fine figure.” “Lady August Stuart, as a Vestal, and Lady Caroline as a Fille de Patmos, showed that true elegance may be expressed without gold and diamonds.” “The Countess of Pomfret, in the character of a Greek Sultana, and the two Miss Fredericks, who accompanied her, as Greek slaves, made a complete group;” and to eclipse all, “Miss Moncton, daughter to Lord Galway, appeared in the character of an Indian Sultana, in a robe of cloth of gold and a rich veil. The seams of her habit were embroidered with precious stones, and she had a magnificent cluster of diamonds on her head: the jewels she wore were valued at 30,000l.”


The Bigamous Duchess of Kingston

An “opera strife” leads to bankruptcy

In the following year, 1771, Mrs. Cornelys got embroiled in an opera strife. Walpole writes, Feb. 22, 1771: “Our most serious war is between two Operas. Mr. Hobart, Lord Buckingham’s brother, is manager of the Haymarket. Last year he affronted Guadagni, by preferring the Zamperina, his own mistress, to the singing hero’s sister. The Duchess of Northumberland, Lady Harrington, and some of the great ladies, took up the brother, and without a license erected an opera for him at Madame Cornelys’s… Mr. Hobart began to starve, and the managers of the theatre were alarmed. To avoid the Act, she pretended to take no money, and had the assurance to advertise that the subscription was to provide coals for the poor, for she has vehemently courted the mob, and succeed in gaining their princely favour. She then declared her masquerades were for the benefit of commerce.… At last, Mr. Hobart informed against her, and the Bench of Justices, have pronounced against her. Her opera is quashed, and Guadagni… is not only fined, but was threatened to be sent to Bridewell.

Mrs. Cornelys’s masquerades were characterized not only by indecency, but also by mockery of solemn feelings and principles… The lessees of the theatre, injured by her popularity, opposed her; and she was convicted before Sir John Fielding for performing dramatic entertainments without a license.… Next, bills of indictment were preferred to the grand jury, insinuating of Mrs. Cornelys “that she does keep and maintain a common disorderly house, and did permit and suffer diverse loose, idle, and disorderly persons, as well men as women, to be and remain the whole night, rioting and otherwise misbehaving themselves.” In November following, appeared in the bankrupt list of the London Gazette, “Teresa Cornelys, Carlisle House, St. Anne, Soho, dealer.”


The Pantheon, one of the competitors of Mrs. Cornelys’s that eventually caused her downfall

Mrs. Cornelys’s last stand

Nevertheless, Mrs. Cornelys resumed her revels here with great spirit in 1776. Two years later, Carlisle House was again advertised to be sold by private contract…

…Mrs. Cornelys attempted to retrieve her fortunes in various places; one being in a large detached mansion, known as Knightsbridge Grove, in Porter’s Lane, approached through a fine avenue of trees from the highway. At length, in 1785, Mrs. Cornelys gave up her precarious trade. “Ten years after,” says Davis’s Memorials of Knightsbridge, “to the great surprise of the public, she reappeared at Knightsbridge as Mrs. Smith, a retailer of asses’ milk. A suite of breakfast-rooms was opened; but her former influence could not be recovered.” The speculation failed; and at length she was confined in the Fleet Prison, where she died August 19, 1797.

In the literature of the day

Murphy, in his Epilogue to Zobeide, 1771, refers to her popularity:

Oh farewell!

For her each haunt that charms a modern belle!

Adieu, Almack’s! Cornelys! Masquerade!

Sweet Ranelagh! Vauxhall’s enchanting shade!

Combe, in his satire, The Diobalady, 1777, thus severely castigates the licentiousness of the amusements:

The ready ministers of hell’s commands, Obedient, fly and take their several stands

At Court,  Cornelys’, and the Coterie;

Where vice, more vicious by effrontery,

Fearless, unblushing, braves the eternal laws

Of God and man, to aid the devil’s cause.

Note: Teresa Cornelys was one of the mistresses of the famous lover, Casanova, to whom she bore a child.


Giacomo Girolamo Casanova


Romance of London Series

  1. Romance of London: The Lord Mayor’s Fool… and a Dessert
  2. Romance of London: Carlton House and the Regency
  3. Romance of London: The Championship at George IV’s Coronation
  4. Romance of London: Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House
  5. Romance of London: The Bottle Conjuror
  6. Romance of London: Bartholomew Fair
  7. Romance of London: The May Fair and the Strong Woman
  8. Romance of London: Nancy Dawson, the Hornpipe Dancer
  9. Romance of London: Milkmaids on May-Day
  10. Romance of London: Lord Stowell’s Love of Sight-seeing
  11. Romance of London: The Mermaid Hoax
  12. Romance of London: The Bluestocking and the Sweeps’ Holiday
  13. Romance of London: Comments on Hogarth’s “Industries and Idle Apprentices”
  14. Romance of London: The Lansdowne Family
  15. Romance of London: St. Margaret’s Painted Window at Westminster
  16. Romance of London: Montague House and the British Museum
  17. Romance of London: The Bursting of the South Sea Bubble
  18. Romance of London: The Thames Tunnel
  19. Romance of London: Sir William Petty and the Lansdowne Family
  20. Romance of London: Marlborough House and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough
  21. Romance of London: The Duke of Newcastle’s Eccentricities
  22. Romance of London: Voltaire in London
  23. Romance of London: The Crossing Sweeper
  24. Romance of London: Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s Fear of Assassination
  25. Romance of London: Samuel Rogers, the Banker Poet
  26. Romance of London: The Eccentricities of Lord Byron
  27. Romance of London: A London Recluse

Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers— “The Master Builder of Delight”


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!

“The Master Builder of Delight”

In 1729, the site of the “Vauxhall Spring-Gardens was leased to a twenty-seven-year-old entrepreneur called Jonathan Tyers, whose goal was to transform it from a sort of seedy rural tavern to a respectable venue for all social classes.

A fellmonger (dealer in animal hides or skins) by trade, Jonathan was not content to continue the family business, successful though it was. Driven by a desire to raise his family’s status—and improve the world as he did so—Tyers believed that culture and pleasurable entertainments should not be the sole prerogative of the upper classes, but that the middle and lower classes deserved to find some enjoyment in their lives as well.

tyers family

Family portrait by Francis Hayman, Jonathan Tyers and his Family, 1740. Left to right: Elder son Thomas, Jonathan, daughter Elizabeth, son Jonathan, wife Elizabeth, daughter Margaret.

Jonathan Tyers was a very complex character, with more than his fair share of contradictions and eccentricities. Upright, intelligent and self-assured, he also exhibited strains of arrogance and ambition. However, his ambitions were clearly projected chiefly upon his business rather than himself, while his personal aspirations were driven by a wish to raise his own status and that of his family to gentry, an object in which he succeeded at a remarkably early age. (p.35)

Through his association with The Wits’ Club, a social club for freethinkers, scholars, libertarians, and writers, Tyers became good friends with Charles Burney, Henry Fielding, William Hogarth, Harry Hatsell, Edward Moore, Thomas Cooke, Richard Dawson, and Leonard Howard. The club first met at Vauxhall Gardens later moved to a nearby tavern. Many of the ideas behind his development of the gardens came from the discussions at this club.

Although he never managed to mix with fashionable society in his lifetime, he was held in great respect and admiration by his peers, so much so that he was elected to the Royal Society of Arts in 1757, where he would have met many other prominent people, including Benjamin Franklin, when he visited London.

He and his creation were even featured in his friend Henry Fielding’s work of fiction, Amelia (1751).

The extreme Beauty and Elegance of this Place is well known to almost every one of my Readers; and happy is it for me that it is so; since to give an adequate Idea of it, would exceed my Power of Description. To delineate the particular Beauties of these Gardens, would, indeed, require as much pains and as much Paper too, as to rehearse all the good Actions of their Master [Tyers], whose Life proves the Truth of an Observation which I have read in some Ethic Writer, that a truly elegant Taste is generally accompanied with an Excellency of Heart; or in other Words, that true Virtue is, indeed, nothing else but true Taste.


Tyers’s Mission

Besides his goal of cleaning up the gardens’ reputation, Tyers hoped to use the venue to improve people’s lives “through contact beauty and quality.” In other words, he planned to provide the lower orders with both art and beauty, and also expose them to “polite society,” who would educate them by example.

His influence on the manners and morals of eighteenth-century society was to be far-reaching, and his patronage of artists and designers would change the face of British art. But it was his ideological beliefs and priorities, his egalitarianism and his conviction that the pursuit of pleasure was a basic human right, and a vital element of the balanced life, that would really motivate his proprietorship of Vauxhall Gardens.

The Ridotto al Fresco

Tyers’s first event at Vauxhall was a masquerade ball in the manner of the Italian carnival in the spring of 1731. Not much is known of this event, except that there was outdoor dancing in masquerade costume and was restricted to the upper classes.

The Ridotto in Venice, Pietro Longhi, 1750's

The Ridotto in Venice, Pietro Longhi, 1750’s

By contrast, his second event in April of 1732, was attended by the poorer class of people, including “an oyster girl, a barber’s apprentice, a lawyer, an army captain, a doctor, a vicar and a number of prostitutes…”

The third event, considered to be the opening ceremony of Tyers’s Vauxhall Gardens, took place on 7 June 1732 and included the presence of Frederick, Prince of Wales. Under the guidance of John James Heidegger, Tyers created an extraordinary event that was talked about for years. A hundred armed soldiers were employed for the security of the distinguished guests, and he “hired the Westminster and Lambeth ferrymen for the whole night to carry his guests across the river and back.” Even with an admission fee of a guinea—which only the wealthy could afford—“between three and four hundred people actually attended the ridotto.” Besides the Prince of Wales’s entourage, the guests included politicians and their friends, “lawyers, bankers, printers, brewers, churchmen, military men and aristocrats.” The party broke up at around four in the morning. “The principal entertainments…were dancing and feasting, combined with the social intercourse between masked guests.”

The Ridotto in Venice, Pietro Longhi, 1750's

The Ridotto in Venice, Pietro Longhi, 1750’s

While by most accounts—particularly in the view of the Prince of Wales—this event was a great success, other accounts indicate that there was a distinct theme of preaching and moralizing via buildings set up to show the misery and pain that result from excessive self-indulgence that may have not gone over too well with the party-minded guests.

In any case, his final ridotto, which was held two weeks later on 21 June, likely at the request of the Prince, who was having the time of his life, was attended by only half as many, which, considering his expenses, would likely have completely wiped out any profits from the four events. No doubt this is the reason Tyers held no such events during 1733 or 1734, although the gardens themselves likely continued to be open to the public.

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

Katherine Givens: Regency Masquerade: The Sinner’s Temptation

Regency Masquerade: The Sinner’s Temptation

by Katherine Givens

Unescorted women disguised in a domino, a mask to disguise their identity to protect their reputation. Rogues scouting the crowd of Marie Antoinettes and Grecian goddesses for their next target. Dandified fops, bucks, and ladybirds mingle with one another as the music lilts in this raucous setting certain to fatigue the most righteous of society’s Grande Dames.


A Masquerade at the Pantheon on Oxford Street in London.
Dated 1809, Wikimedia Commons.

A masquerade is always the setting for interludes and intrigue in regency romances. A masquerade plays a central role in my debut novella, In Her Dreams. And why not? The backdrop masked balls provide are absolute fun to envision while writing, and the history is just as interesting!

Masquerades originated in Italy and flourished on the European continent during the Renaissance era. However, masquerades were not introduced to London until 1708 by a Swiss dandy named John James Heidegger. The masked balls slowly gained popularity in the following decades. The stylized masks, gowns, and costumes allowed for the ton to be freed from society’s constraints in an intimate setting where rendezvouses were possible. Venues such as Vauxhall Gardens hosted masquerades, and the reputation of Vauxhall was already in question.

Masquerade at the King’s Theatre in Haymarket.  Dated 1724, Wikimedia Commons.

Masquerade at the King’s Theatre in Haymarket.
Dated 1724, Wikimedia Commons.

These functions gained the disdain of society in the Regency era. Movements against the immorality and sin attached to the masquerade tried to end the popularity. Activists behind this movement accused “foreign influence” as the reason behind its corruption, but the movements had little effect. The masquerade thrived well through the Victorian era. And thank goodness, for it gives me a fun playground to have my characters romp around in!

About In Her Dreams

A flirty, fun, mix-and-match romance about two sisters who are betrothed to the wrong men…

Givens3Evangeline Vernon is a woman on the verge of spinsterhood — until the prim and proper Duke of Manchester steps in. Her family is pleased with the match, but the duke is not the passionate man Evangeline craves. Her heart belongs to an alluring, golden-haired gentleman, perfect in every way…except one: he doesn’t exist.

Angela Vernon is everything a proper, well-brought-up woman should be. She knows her place and understands society’s expectations — which include not being jealous of her sister and not coveting her sister’s suitor. But how can she bear the heartache of watching the only man she loves marry not only her sister, but a woman who doesn’t see past his exterior to the man he is beneath?



About the Author

Katherine Givens is a museum employee with a secret. Few know the truth of her greatest passion, but those closest to her know she loves to write historical romances… Alright, maybe more than a few people know she is a writer. Anyone who will listen to her can glean this from a conversation.

Givens4So, Katherine Givens is a museum employee who wishes she had a devilish secret or a jaw-dropping double life, but the characters in her manuscripts often do. From the withdrawn duke mesmerized by his quiet maid or the savage viking eager to ravish a Christian girl, her heroes are always bound to have a secret or two. It is often up to the headstrong heroine to unravel the mysteries surrounding the man that has captured her heart.

Katherine is a member of the Romance Writers of America and Romance Writers of America PRO. She has two novellas, one already released and another upcoming.  In Her Dreams (Harlequin Australia’s Escape Publishing) was released October 1, 2013. much to her delight! Love Amidst the Egyptian Sands (Red Sage Publishing) will be released on January 1, 2015. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines, including The Copperfield Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Nazar Look, and WestWard Quarterly.


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