Oh, how delicious! Look what I found online: Almack’s: A Novel, by Marianne Spencer Stanhope Hudson and published by Saunders and Otley in 1826. Almack’s, as all followers of the regency era know, was the exclusive establishment where ladies and gentlemen of the Ton could dance every Wednesday night during the London Season. The powerful patronesses of Almack’s were Lady Sarah Jersey (whose lover was the Prince Regent), Lady Castlereigh, Lady Cowper, Lady Sefton, Princess Esterhazy, and the Countess of Leiven. They decreed who could gain admittance to the assembly rooms and who could not, thereby exercising enormous social influence, as described in the novel:
That grand tribunal at Almack’s makes and unmakes fashionables, I understand. The six grand inquisitors decide upon the degree of ton of each of their followers, just as a committee of tailors would sit in judgment upon a cape or a collar.
The following two quotes provide more details from this vivid, digitized 413-page novel. The first is regarding a lady’s appearance:
… after dinner a man’s heart naturally opens, sur tout au coin du feu: I have often observed, that a comfortable seat will hasten a declaration; men are such lovers of ease, so naturally sensual. I shall persuade the Baron not to order the carriage till eleven o clock, to give time. Pray put on your new white gown, my love, and those turquoise ornaments, with that pretty blue garland, it becomes your light hair so particularly; and a soupcon of rouge, just to give a glow – nothing more! what even Julia herself could not disapprove.”
and this quote is about waiting for one’s carriage when it rains …
At this moment Lionel re-appeared. “Lady Birmingham”, said he, “it pours. We must not lose a moment for there is sad confusion at the door, and I had great difficulty in getting your carriage up.” The bustle and agitation, the noise of the link boys, the oaths of the footmen, the violence of the coachmen, the kicking of the horses, and the blazing of the flambeaux effectually drove the Author of Waverley out of poor Lady Birmingham’s head; it was busied with other things. Had she ever read our friend Luttrell, she would have remembered that splendid description :
How in a rainy blustering night
The London coach maker’s delight …
- Almack’s Assembly Rooms (on my other blog, Jane Austen Today).
- Real Life in London, Pierce Egan, 1821