Monday, February 27, 2012

A Sunday in Hyde Park in 1823

Monday, February 27, 2012
Loretta reports:

The Countess of Blessington describes Hyde Park on a Sunday in the early 1820s. While the entire piece is well worth reading, I excerpted these bits mainly because of the mention of dressmakers (the heroines of my current series).
Having devoted so much of my attention to the Drive and equestrians, I now turned some portion of it to the pedestrians, and here I was no less amused. Amidst the crowd, I distinguished some of the legislators of our land lounging along, carelessly nodding to each other, and casting enquiring glances at every youthful female face, and every well turned ankle.

 . . .Milliners, dress-makers, and their pretty piquante looking apprentices, the two former in the newest and most expensive fashion, and the latter in an economical but fanciful abridgment of it, are here enjoying their day of rest, by promenading up and down this crowded walk from three till half-past six, displaying their pretty faces and smart dresses, to the envy of their rival female friends, and to the admiration of men of fashion, and ogling Dandies of every class.

A few women of fashion may be occasionally seen in this walk; but, as if ashamed of its vulgarity, they generally adopt the incognito of a large bonnet and veil, and carefully avoid recognizing their male acquaintance, who are too often seen escorting ladies whose reputations are not so fair as their faces sometimes are, and who walk the streets on week days, and the Park on Sundays. . .

Disgusted with this melange, and wishing to enjoy a little quiet and fresh air, I crossed the Park, and walked along the retired part, known by the appellation of the Lovers' Walk. Here, thought I, I am at last escaped from that motley crowd; once more I breathe a pure atmosphere, untainted by the breath of vanity and folly, and free from the overpowering mingled gales of Otto of Rose, Odour of Jessamine, Eau de Portugal, and Huile Antique.
— Marguerite, Countess of Blessington, The Magic Lantern; or, Sketches of Scenes in the Metropolis, 1823

Illustrations: Thomas Lawrence, Portrait of the Countess of Blessington, from Wikipedia (original in the Wallace Collection).
Sunday in Hyde Park, from Old and New London, 1880


Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing this to our attention.One of the other chapters is of an auction when the contents of a house were auctioned on the premises. About twenty years later, she had to watch her own belongings go under the hammer. Her jointure was based on an estate in Ireland devastated by the potato famine.
The Countess of Blessington is a complex character. Like many other women who needed money, she earned it by writing.

textilehistorIE said...

Nice extract!

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