WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Contra Dance

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Contra Dance

I could have danced all night
I could have danced all night
And still have begged for more
I could have spread my wings
And done a thousand things
I’ve never done before

My Fair Lady, I Could Have Danced All Night, music written by Frederick Loewe and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, published 1956.

Contra Dance

A dance where the dancers of the different sexes stand opposite each other, instead of side by side, as in the minuet, rigadoon, louvre, &c. and now corruptly called a country dance.

Those of us familiar with the Regency era are well acquainted with dancing at balls and the obligatory appearance(s) at Almacks for a young marriage-minded miss, and we’ve heard the terms ‘minuet,’ ‘highland reel,’ and ‘quadrille,’ but what about those other dances mentioned by the estimable Mr. Grose?

Contra Dance

Popular since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the contra dance consisted of couples lining up opposite each other with men on one side and ladies on the other. The dance began at the top with the first couple, and they worked their way down the lines, weaving in and out. They were followed by the next top couple, until all couples had worked the line. As everyone had the chance to be the lead couple, the set could last a long, long time. A beautiful (albeit abbreviated) example of the contra dance is Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot from the cinematic version of Emma, 1995.

Minuet

Whether the dance as it was during the Regency period derived from the Italian or French versions, the minuet was so named due to its small steps. It was danced by couples in three-quarter time. This set opened balls as everyone knew how to navigate its steps, despite the fact the footwork was intricate. The dance was steeped in tradition and held with near reverence by the older crowd, likely because it quickly displayed a person’s grace (or lack thereof). It’s popularity began to wane in the Regency as the waltz gained popularity and eventual acceptance. (On a side note, the good Regency historian remembers that the waltz during this time was nothing like the waltz of the Victorian or current eras. This is the Viennese Waltz, with couples not dancing in the closed position, but rather semi-closed, side-by-side, then facing each other, as seen in the following illustration. Couples are very much embracing, but not tightly, bosoms brushing, as some might wish.)

Earl Waltz Steps from Thomas Wilson’s Treatise on Waltzing, 1816.

But I digress. A beautiful example of the minuet is presented by the Jane Austen Society of Florence and L’Atelier de Danse at the Grand Napoleonic Ball in Florence, in May of 2010, at the Villa del Poggio Imperiale, imperial residence of Napoleon’s sister, Elisa Baciocchi from 1809 till 1814 while she was Grand Duchess of Tuscany.

Rigadoon

This dance stumped me until I discovered it is a version of a more well-known dance group, the cotillion, which came to England from France in the mid-18th Century. The cotillion was another lengthy dance and the rigadoon was merely one step variation that could be showcased by the hostess. The rigadoon was a set a continuous steps and swirls with the pattern increasing in difficulty as the set progressed. I found a beautifully executed version of A New Rigadoon based on Mr. Isaac’s Rigadoon of 1706, performed at the 2012 Ottawa English Country Dance Ball.

 

If your map-reading and deciphering skills are especially acute, please feel free to interpret the original sketches of Mr. Isaac, the Rigadoon, from 1706. They are beautiful, and beyond my ken.

Mr. Isaac, The Rigadoon, 1706, plate one.

A Supplement of Steps by Raoul Auger Feuillet and translated by John Weaver, Orchesography, 1706.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louvre

This is actually a “nickname” for the Aimable Vainqueur Danse, a ballroom dance choreographed by Louis Pécour that premiered in December of 1700. It’s also documented with the ‘Loure’ spelling, making it somewhat difficult to discover in the depths of Google. It became one of the popular historical dances to include at balls through the early 19th Century because of its stately movements and traditional elegance. Once again, the steps are intricate and the pace is steady without any breaks, very similar to the Allemande. Giovanni-Andrea Gallini’s A Treatise on the Art of Dancing in 1778 states the Louvre and Minuet as the two dances most in fashion throughout Europe, and that the Louvre “pleases particularly” with the “just concert of motions” exhibited by the couple. It’s important again for the Regency historian to remember that dance was also another language of diplomacy, and that the most exclusive balls and routs would feature dances that all the European ambassadors and attachés would know well. A very baroque example of this dance is performed by Thomas Baird and Suzanne Paterson for La Belle Danse, exhibiting the original 1701 choreography by L.G. Pécour. The tune is from André Campra’s 1700 opera Hésione.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dining Room Post

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dining Room Post

This week’s phrase comes courtesy the dedicated thief who’s in it for the art of the deception, with the Rube Goldberg-esque planning and implementation of the steal.

Dining Room Post

A mode of stealing in houses that let lodgings, by rogues pretending to be postmen, who send up sham letters to the lodgers, and, whilst waiting in the entry for the postage, go into the first room they see open, and rob it.

Arrest of a Woman at Night by Thomas Rowlandson, date unknown, The Samuel Courtauld Trust at The Courtauld Gallery, London.

As we all know, however, crime rarely pays, or at least fails to pay for the long run. It can be argued that the Regency era gave rise to the (more) modern  and organized police man. During this time, criminals were pursued by constables, the night watch, thief-takers, and Bow Street Runners. The Metropolitan Police themselves were formed in 1829, a few years removed from the Regency but during the reign of George IV (the former Prince Regent). These various officials of law enforcement were notoriously tough and dogged in their pursuit of criminals (or at least the payment at the end of the pursuit). Some lawmen were fresh from lives of crime themselves, and used their considerable knowledge and connections to ferret out criminals.

The Night Watchman Picking Up a Wayward Girl by Thomas Rowlandson, Bonhams, New York.

Interestingly, when searching for period graphics to illustrate this post, the majority I found were of women being arrested rather than men. I’m not sure if there’s a less-than-subtle message to be inferred here, but at least one engraving by Thomas Rowlandson showed they didn’t all go down quietly.

Attacking the Night Watchman by Thomas Rowlandson, date unknown.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Gentleman of Three Ins

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Gentleman of Three Ins

Lots of things come in threes.

Little pigs. French hens. Little kittens. Feet in a yard. BLT ingredients. Brontë sisters.

Sometimes frightening things come in threes: witches in Macbeth, Cerebrus’s heads, Hanson brothers. And this week’s slang.

Gentleman of Three Ins

In debt, in gaol, and in danger of remaining there for life; or, in gaol, indicted, and in danger of being hanged in chains.

I wrote several posts last year concerning the perilous nature of gaols and imprisonment in Regency England, which can be found here, here, here, and here. I won’t rehash the past, but instead rely on my dear Mr. Gillray to provide some period figurative illustrations rather than literal interpretations of this week’s slang.

In debt:

John Bull ground down by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 1 June 1795, National Portrait Gallery.

From the British Museum:

John Bull’s head and shoulders emerge from a gigantic coffee-mill. He is being ground by Pitt into guineas which pour from the spout of the machine into the inverted coronet of the Prince of Wales, held out by the Prince (left). The Prince points out his harvest of coins to a row of creditors. John Bull, his hands clasped, shrieks “Murder! Murder!” Pitt (right), both hands on the handle, is working hard, stripped to his shirt. His coat lies across an enormous heap of guineas on which he rests his left knee. He says: “God save great George our Ki . . .” Behind him, and in the upper right corner of the design, is the crown, the centre of a sun whose rays extend behind Pitt’s head, with the words: “Grind away! grind away grind away Billy! never mind his bawling! Grind away.” Other words from the crown are directed towards the victim: “What! – What! – what! Murder hay? why, you poor Stupe, is it not for the good of your Country? hay? hay”. Between Pitt and the post of the mill Dundas and Burke are grovelling for guineas: Burke, frowning, uses both hands; Dundas, who wears a plaid, fills his Scots cap.

In gaol:

Exaltation of Faro’s Daughters by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 12 May 1796, British Museum.

From the British Museum:

Lady Buckinghamshire (left) and Lady Archer (right) stand side by side in the pillory, heads and hands closely confined, their heads in profile to the right, weeping angrily. Both wear tall feathers in their hair and large pendent ear-rings. Lady Buckinghamshire is forced to stand painfully on tip-toe, a short petticoat exposes her fat legs. On the front of the platform is a placard: ‘Cure for Gambling Publish’d by Lord Kenyon in the Court of Kings Bench on May 9th 1796’. This is raised above the heads of the crowd, with grinning upturned faces in the foreground. Eggs, a cat, &c. fly through the air; the pillory and the dresses of the victims are bespattered. On the right is a house with spectators in the windows.

Hanging in:

Hanging. Drowning. by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 9 November 1795, National Portrait Gallery.

From the Historical and Descriptive Account of the Caricatures of James Gillray:

Fox. Pitt. Dundas. Another allusion to the love of the two Ministers for the bottle. It represents the different feelings with which the different parties in this country were supposed to have looked upon the decline of Republican principles in France at this time.

And lest we forget, three is a magic number.

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Up to Their Gossip

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Up to Their Gossip

This week’s phrase took very little effort on my part after I stumbled upon a terrific post at Flavorwire. I have long admired Jane Austen’s works and delved into her life through her remaining correspondence and notes – she really had the greatest sense of comic timing and a deft hand at using words to their greatest effect. After reading this compilation of her best bon mots from Pride and Prejudice, I was again reminded of her genius way with words.

This will be fun.

Up to Their Gossip

To be a match for one who attempts to cheat or deceive; to be on a footing, or in the secret. I’ll be up with him; I will repay him in kind.

“But that’s none of my business.” ~Fitzwilliam Darcy

To me, Lizzy Bennet is the epitome of the definition of being Up to Their Gossip. Never let them see you sweat.

The following are the 15 Best Disses and One-Liners From Pride and Prejudice, according to Flavorwire.

1. Mr. Bennet on Mrs. Bennet’s nerves:

“Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for my poor nerves.”

“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these last twenty years at least.”

2. Mr. Darcy’s original stone-cold snub of Lizzy Bennet, to Mr. Bingley:

“She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”

3. Lizzy Bennet to Mr. Darcy on his weaknesses:

“Perhaps that is not possible for anyone. But it has been the study of my life to avoid those weaknesses which often expose a strong understanding to ridicule.”

“Such as vanity and pride.”

4. Mr. Darcy to Caroline Bingley on the appeal of Lizzy Bennet’s eyes, despite her conceitedly independent choice to walk in ankle-deep mud:

“I am afraid, Mr. Darcy,” observed Miss Bingley in a half whisper, “that this adventure has rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes.”

“Not at all,” he replied; “they were brightened by the exercise.”

5. Mr. Bennet to Lizzy, after she refuses to marry Mr. Collins:

“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

6. Lizzy to Caroline Bingley on the matter of George Wickham:

“His coming into the country at all is a most insolent thing, indeed, and I wonder how he could presume to do it. I pity you, Miss Eliza, for this discovery of your favourite’s guilt; but really, considering his descent, one could not expect much better.”

“His guilt and his descent appear by your account to be the same,” said Elizabeth angrily; “for I have heard you accuse him of nothing worse than of being the son of Mr. Darcy’s steward, and of that, I can assure you, he informed me himself.”

7. Mr. Bennet to Mrs. Bennet on longevity:

“Indeed, Mr. Bennet,” said she, “it is very hard to think that Charlotte Lucas should ever be mistress of this house, that I should be forced to make way for her, and live to see her take her place in it!”

“My dear, do not give way to such gloomy thoughts. Let us hope for better things. Let us flatter ourselves that I may be the survivor.”

8. Mr. Darcy to William Lucas on dancing:

“What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy! There is nothing like dancing after all. I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished society.”

“Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world. Every savage can dance.”

Not. Amused. By. Savages. At. All.

9. Mr. Darcy, in peak jerk mode, even as he proposes to Lizzy:

“Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections?—to congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?”

10. Lizzy to Mr. Darcy on his previous comments:

“You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner.”

That condescending curtsy, though. 19th Century equivalent of the slow clap.

11. Darcy to Caroline Bingley on Lizzy’s fine eyes, part II:

“I remember, when we first knew her in Hertfordshire, how amazed we all were to find that she was a reputed beauty…But afterwards she seemed to improve on you, and I believe you thought her rather pretty at one time.”

“Yes,” replied Darcy, who could contain himself no longer, “but that was only when I first saw her, for it is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance.”

12. Lizzy to her seduction-victim little sister Lydia on finding a spouse:

“And then when you go away, you may leave one or two of my sisters behind you; and I dare say I shall get husbands for them before the winter is over.”

“I thank you for my share of the favour,” said Elizabeth; “but I do not particularly like your way of getting husbands.”

13. Lizzy to Lady Catherine on whether or not she’ll marry Mr. Darcy:

“You are then resolved to have him?”

“I have said no such thing. I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”

14. Lizzy, to Jane, on falling for Mr. Darcy:

“My dearest sister, now be serious. I want to talk very seriously. Let me know every thing that I am to know, without delay. Will you tell me how long you have loved him?”

“It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.”

15. Lizzy and Darcy on Lady Catherine’s influence on their love:

I knew enough of your disposition to be certain that, had you been absolutely, irrevocably decided against me, you would have acknowledged it to Lady Catherine, frankly and openly.”

Elizabeth coloured and laughed as she replied, “Yes, you know enough of my frankness to believe me capable of that. After abusing you so abominably to your face, I could have no scruple in abusing you to all your relations.”

And they all lived happily every after.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Mung

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Mung

Silly post this week. Well, silly and yet also distasteful. *shudders*

Some words sound nastier when said, but their definitions reveal them to be fairly benign. Some words, however, are a twofer and sound just as awful as their squicky meanings.

My trigger words: flaccid, juices, veiny, seepage, squirt, panties, spew, ointment, moist.

This week, I’ve compiled a list of historical vulgar terms that give me a case of the icks. It’s the words that make you go, “ew!”

Mung

To beg.

Snaggs ~ Large teeth; also snails.

Flabby ~ Relaxed, flaccid, not firm or solid.

Dumplin ~ A short thick man or woman.

Pucker Water ~ Water impregnated with alum, or other astringents, used by old experienced traders to counterfeit virginity.

Rumpus ~ A riot, quarrel, or confusion.

Smear ~ A plasterer.

Maggotty ~ Whimsical, capricious.

Giblets ~ Ahem. To join giblets; said of a man and woman who cohabit as husband and wife, without being married; also to copulate.

Fart ~ He has let a brewer’s fart, grains and all; said of one who has betrayed his breeches.

Belch ~ All sorts of beer; that liquor being apt to cause eructation.

Cheeser ~ A strong smelling fart.

Twiddle Diddles ~ Testicles.

Shanker ~ (Sorry!) A venereal wart.

Chummage ~ Money paid by the richer sort of prisoners in the Fleet and King’s Bench, to the poorer, for their share of a room.

Hash ~ To flash the hash; to vomit.

Barnacle ~ A good job, or snack easily got: also shellfish growing at the bottoms of ships; a bird of the goose kind; an instrument like a pair of pincers, to fix on the noses of vicious horses whilst shoeing; a nick name for spectacles, and also for the gratuity given to grooms by the buyers and sellers of horses.

 

All slang terms taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ To Couch a Hogshead

This week’s word (or rather, phrase) is the second post brought to you by my incessant fascination with James Gillray. Like I mentioned last week, I love to look at James Gillray prints, and the National Portrait Gallery has 881 items on file.

It’s a huge time suck and and I highly recommend it.

So this week I took inspiration from the second in his two-part series from 1806, Fast-Asleep.

Fast-Asleep by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 1 November 1806, National Portrait Gallery.

This gentleman is out, spirits and tobacco forgotten, puffing a snore as his periwig flies at half-mast. Some have coined the phrases “sleep like a baby” or “sleep like the dead,” but perhaps this painting conjures a new expression: “sleep like a Regency gentleman.”

To Couch a Hogshead

To lie down to sleep. Cant.

Gillray’s painting made me wonder at slang terms for sleeping, and To Couch a Hogshead was too evocative to pass up. And because my granddaddy was Scottish, I know a hogshead is a type of barrel used to age scotch. Like Sherlock, this made me retreat to my mind palace and surmise that the cant phrase likely represented those who climbed into a barrel to catch some winks after a long hard day (and night’s) worth of disreputable behavior. And as the engraving below shows, a Hogshead held just about anything, including sugar and unruly children.

The Sugar Hogshead From the Original Picture in the Possession of M.W. Collins, 1846, British Museum.

The Hogshead, or “hoggie,” actually refers to the size of the barrel, meaning it holds 53 Imperial Gallons. The Scots age their elixir in oak that is preferably between 100-150 years of age, which makes the barrels rather as precious as their cargo. When casks begin to leak or need repair, coopers break them down into individual planks and reassemble the stalwart ones into new Hogsheads.

It’s a beautiful thing.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Wife in Water Colours

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Wife in Water Colours

They are often written as a foil to the heroine: vain, overblown, and vengeful. They often have some skeevy characteristic such as malice, possessiveness, or extreme avarice that only manifests itself (or seems unattractive and potentially problematic) to the hero after he meets and/or falls for the heroine. In nearly half the novels in which they make an appearance, they don’t take dismissal by the hero with a thank you, but rather use it as kindling in the formation of a plot to harm the heroine.

Beware the ides of Mistress.

The Amorous Courtesan by Pierre Subleyras, 1735, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Wife in Water Colours (noun)

A mistress, or concubine; water colours being, like their engagements, easily effaced, or dissolved.

I know many Regency gentlemen kept mistresses, and I have no problem reading of their accounts in contemporaneous resources and historical texts. I don’t, however, want to read about them in flagrante delicto with the hero in my historical romance. The hero may visit her off-page, give her her congé, or even offer assistance toward a more respectable direction; I don’t want to read about them engaging in energetic discourse of a horizontal nature.

The Jersey Smuggler Detected; – or – Good cause for (separation) Discontent by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 24 May 1796.

Once a male character in a novel becomes clearly identifiable as the hero, I want him to remain committed to the heroine. He may fight with her and against his attraction for three-fourths of the story, but he may not visit another’s bed. Author Susana Ellis wrote several posts about what she called “Historical Romance Deal Breakers,” and adultery was number two. I concur.

Now, turn the mistress into the heroine … well, I’m all for that. I like a good underdog story.

 

  • Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • Want to learn more about courtesans and mistresses in Regency England? Head to The Culture Concept Circle.
  • Someone else agrees with me about adultery being a no-no in historical romance. Read what Susana Ellis has to say about it.