WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Balum Rancum

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Balum Rancum

This week’s word deals with dancing prostitutes, so as you can imagine, period illustrations were a bit hard to find. Thank goodness the upper classes had no compunction about acting a bit shamefully on occasion. Or at least enough to satirize.

Exhibition Stare Case, print made by Thomas Rowlandson, 1811 (?), British Museum. Visitors to the Royal Academy struggle up and down the steeply curving staircase of Somerset House. The wild display of bare legs brings delight to the spectators.

Blaum Rancum

A hop or dance, where the women are all prostitutes. N. B. The company dance in their birthday suits.

Waltzing! or a peep into the Royal Brothel Spring Gardens dedicated with propriety to the Lord Chamberlain, 1816, British Museum.

Far from an illustration of prostitutes, but based on the description of the engraving, there is a definite spirit of balum rancum afoot.

Three couples dance immodestly in a space bordered by a red rope behind which are many spectators. The breasts and shoulders, and sometimes the arms, of the women are bare, their skirts short and edged with transparent lace. A fourth couple stand arm-in-arm on the extreme right, inspecting a lady seated on a bench. A corner of the musicians’ gallery is on the left. The men’s costume also is caricatured. All wear tail-coats and high collars; one wears very tight and short pantaloons, another loose baggy trousers resembling plus-fours (cf. No. 12825). There is a carpet with a large lyre for centre-piece (or perhaps this represents the designs then chalked on ball-room floors). Above is a gas-chandelier with many jets. On the wall are three pictures. (1) ‘Naked, but not ashamed’: three women with bare breasts and short petticoats, two wearing hats, and two having a grotesque stoop (cf. No. 12840). (2) Two men raising their hats; one wears short loose trousers, the other tight breeches with top-boots. (3) ‘Tobacco Pipe imitations of Female Dress—or Smoking the Fashions of 1816.’

The Royal Joke, -or- Black Jacks Delight by James Gillray, published by Samuel William Fores 25 April 1788, National Portrait Gallery.

Fiddling, dancing, royalty, gawkers, and a whip – who needs prostitutes?! And while the colorized etching is held at the National Portrait Gallery, the description is pure British Museum:

A scene in Carlton House. The Prince of Wales, seated in a chair, holds a stout, good-looking lady (Mrs. Sawbridge) across his knees and chastises her with upraised hand; she holds out her arms imploringly. Alderman Sawbridge (right) faces her in profile to the left, playing a fiddle and dancing; from his pocket hangs a piece of music inscribed ‘The Reform’, a new Motion. On the extreme left Lady Archer stands in profile to the right, holding a driving-whip, and pointing angrily at the injured lady. A little girl (Sawbridge) stands full-face, clasping her hands in horror at the treatment of her mother. Behind are a number of onlookers: a very fat lady in profile to the left is Miss Vanneck; Mrs. Fitzherbert watches, not displeased; Fox, his arm round her shoulder, gazes amorously at her…

 

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

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Knight of the Whip

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Knight of the Whip

Whoever doubts the importance of a Coachman’s calling, admits that he has not much looked into books. There is none more classical; few have been considered more honourable; in fact, we should write our inkstand dry were we to enumerate a tithe of the honours paid to those who have distinguished themselves in the management of the reins of the whip.

Knight of the Whip (noun)

A coachman.

Neither is there anything like “small potatoes” in the character and demeanour of the modern Coachman. He is not only, next to his Master, the greatest man in the inn yard, but there are times when his word of command is quite as absolute as that of Wellington at Waterloo. For example: –who dares to disobey the summons of “Now, gentlemen, if you please,” given as he walks out of a small road-side house, on a winter’s night, into which himself and passengers have just stepped to wet their whistles, whilst the horses are being changed?

Tilleman Hodgkinson Bobart: The Classical Alamater Coachman Oxford, by and published by Robert Dighton, January 1808.

Tilleman Hodgkinson Bobart: The Classical Alamater Coachman Oxford, by and published by Robert Dighton, January 1808.

Then see him enter a country town–“the swell dragsman;” or what Prior calls: –“the youthful, handsome charioteer, Firm in his seat and running his career”–why, every young woman’s eyes are directed towards him; and not a few of the old ones as well. But can we wonder at it? How neatly, how appropriately to his calling, is he generally attired! How healthy he looks! What an expressive smile he bestows upon some prettier lass than common; partly on his own account, and partly that his passengers may perceive he is thus favoured by the fair sex. But in truth, road Coachman are general favourites with womankind. It may be, perhaps, that in the tenderness of their nature, they consider their occupation to be a dangerous one, and on the long-established principle, that “none but the brave deserve the fair,” they come next to the soldier in female estimation, amongst a certain class.

The London Coachman, Published by Carington Bowles, 1769, British Museum.

The London Coachman, Published by Carington Bowles, 1769, British Museum.

But how manifold are the associations connected with a road Coachman’s calling? The general source and principal of human happiness, in a worldly sense, is novelty; and who can indulge in this equally with the traveller….In fact, the benefits of travelling are innumerable: it liberalises the mind, and enlarges the sphere of observation by comparison; dispels local prejudices, short-sightedness, and caprice; and has always been considered essential to the character of an accomplished gentleman. How delightful is it, then, to live in a country in which, as in England, travelling is so perfect, and can be occasionally indulged in with comfort, by all classes of the community. We are denied a passage through the air; but who can wish for anything of this nature beyond being conveyed at the rate of ten miles per hour, on a road nearly as hard and as smooth as a barn floor, and by horses that appear to be but playing with their work?

Stage Coachman, by George Cruikshank and published by Joseph Robins, February 1817, and reprinted in Gentleman's Pocket magazine, 1827.

Stage Coachman, by George Cruikshank and published by Joseph Robins, February 1817, and reprinted in Gentleman’s Pocket magazine, 1827.

Methinks it might well be assumed that the author of the aforementioned quotes, one Nimrod, was somehow beholden to the profession about which he wrote. Either that, or it’s a brazen case of “he who toots not his own horn, that same horn shall not be tooted.” I recommend following the link below to read the author’s transcription of an entertaining and illuminating conversation betwixt a noble Coachman and his inquisitive Passenger.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cat’s Paw

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cat’s Paw

I love the mental image this week’s word phrase evokes. We can all picture the literal meaning of the phrase and, upon reading its definition, easily picture its double meaning.

Cat’s Paw (noun)

To be made a cat’s paw of; to be made a tool or instrument to accomplish the purpose of another. An allusion to the story of a monkey, who made use of a cat’s paw to scratch a roasted chesnut [sic] out of the fire.

In the caricature The Cat’s Paw, below, artist HB Doyle intimated that Frenchman Tallyrand was wily enough to outwit the English Lord Palmerston. Unfortunately, Palmerston both wrote and spoke French fluently, so he was not easy mark. Tallyrand complained, “C’est un homme qui n’a pas le talent du raisonnement.” Palmerston would not engage him in argument.

The Cat's Paw (Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Prince de Benevento; Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston) by John HB Doyle, 1832, National Portrait Gallery, London.

The Cat’s Paw (Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Prince de Benevento; Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston) by John HB Doyle, 1832, National Portrait Gallery, London.

The parliamentary elections of 1784 were the culmination of a year of political maneuverings between King George III and Charles James Fox. To force a very entertaining and information-filled year into a nutshell, the King choreographed the ousting of Fox as Prime Minister so he could appoint William Pitt the Younger. Fox and his allies, chiefly Lord North, cried foul and declared the constitution had been violated. Fox and North were unable to stir up enough support for their cause; in fact, each new petition or motion they introduced only succeeded in driving their defenders underground or to the opposition. What resulted was a nationwide campaign between the old Fox/North coalition and the new King/Pitt government. On local levels, songs and poems were published as each side celebrated success or suffered defeat in the crusade. The following poem about Charles Fox addresses whom is to be the cat’s paw in this round of the game of politics.

A poem about Charles Fox and his role in the Elections 1784, from History of the Westminster Elections by Lovers of Truth and Justice. Price Ten Shillings and Sixpence!

A poem about Charles Fox and his role in the Elections 1784, from History of the Westminster Elections by Lovers of Truth and Justice. Price Ten Shillings and Sixpence!

James Gillray used a child’s toy as cat’s paw, illustrating how little it took and how easily it was to distract the Prince Regent. In this instance, famed actor Richard Sheridan uses a bandelure (or yo-yo) to play cat’s paw whilst he romances Mrs. Fitzherbert. The caption reads:

————“thus sits the Dupe, content!
Pleases himself with Toys, thinks Heav’n secure,
Depends on Woman’s smiles, & thinks the Man
His Soul is wrap’d in, can be nought but true;
Fond Fool, arouse! shake off thy childish Dream,
Behold Love’s falshood, Friendships perjur’d troth;
Nor sit & sleep, for all around the World,
Thy shame is known, while thou alone art blind –

Bandelures by James Gillray, 1791, British Museum.

Bandelures by James Gillray, 1791, British Museum.

Though I’m far more familiar with Robert Cruikshank the artist, author Robert Cruikshank, in his novel James Hatfield and the Beauty of Buttermere: a story of modern times, writes about employing the subterfuge of the cat’s paw for highly nefarious reasons: to the death!

James Hatfield and the Beauty of Buttermere: a story of modern times by Robert Cruikshank, 1841

James Hatfield and the Beauty of Buttermere: a story of modern times by Robert Cruikshank, 1841