The print I used in my last blog of pretty people dancing at Almack’s reminded me of a puzzler I came upon when researching my last book:
1818April 16 We were at Almack’s last night. The younger part of the company danced. They were not the most numerous part. Statesmen, cabinet ministers and their ladies, peers, peeresses, and their daughters, foreign ambassadors, and others, were present. In these circles, if all classes do not intermingle, all ages do. Gibbon, writing to Lord Sheffield from Paris, says, that Horace Walpole gave him a letter to Madame du Deffand, ‘an agreeable young lady of eighty-two,’ who had constant suppers at her house, and the best company. There may be seen in society in London, as part of its ornaments, ladies whom I should set down as not much short of that youthful age. It would be doing injustice to the stronger sex, to supposed that they give up sooner.
Richard Rush (U.S. Minister to Great Britain 1817–1825), A Residence at the Court of London
The puzzler was the bit about the “younger part of the company” not being “the most numerous part.” It threw all askew my image of Almack’s as the Marriage Mart. More on this subject next week.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.