As I mentioned last time, American Richard Rush in 1818 saw an Almack’s where youth by no means predominated. He was thirty-eight at the time, rather older than all but three (depending on who the source is) of Almack’s hostesses: the ladies who decided who was allowed to buy tickets to the famous Wednesday night assemblies. (At left is one of them, the Countess Lieven.) We of the Regency persuasion have learned to think of Almack’s as the Marriage Mart. Rush’s comment about the age groups made me wonder about this.
Other things make me wonder: So many of the attendees were already married--and cheating on their spouses, in some cases to a phenomenal degree. Lady Cowper, one of the patronesses, was not only unfaithful to her husband but to her lover, Lord Palmerston, who got even with her infidelities by sleeping with (among many others) the courtesan Harriette Wilson. Whom the Marquis of Worcester slept with, too (see Gotta Dance for a picture of Worcester sort of dancing with his wife).
Then there’s this: “Although alcohol was not served on the premises, many arrived late from the theater or elsewhere already quite drunk. Added to this nightclub atmosphere was the particular delight of people who believed they had gained entry to a gathering of an elite, which amounted to a frenzy,” according to Ian Kelly's, Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Man of Style. Kelly describes the atmosphere as "fraught but sexually heightened."
Well, gee. Don’t know about you, but I’m starting to wonder whether Almack’s is the right place for somebody’s innocent seventeen-year-old daughter to meet her future husband.
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.