Saturday, September 19, 2009

Almack's according to a Yank

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Loretta reports:

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:

1818 April 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.

4 comments:

Vanessa Kelly said...

Oh, no! Is another myth about to bite the dust?

Although that might explain why the men found Almack's so boring - besides the lack of strong drink, of course. Maybe there just weren't enough young women to flirt with.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

It also makes you wonder why this seems so remarkable to Mr. Rush. Is the life expectancy that much shorter back in Philadelphia that older ladies are a rarity worth noting? Or are they not permitted to show themselves in society after a certain age?

Vanessa Kelly said...

Susan, I guess even back then Americans were obsessed with looking youthful! At least if Mr. Rush is any indication.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Vanessa, at least when he's being amazed by an older woman, she really IS an older woman ('an agreeable young lady of eighty-two') So often when reading long-ago male opinions, they'll be dissing some lady as being doddering and withered -- and it turns out the poor woman in question is a whopping twenty-five!

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