Monday, August 10, 2020

1836 Vauxhall Charles Dickens

Vauxhall 1796 Isaac Cruikshank - supper boxes in the background


Charles Dickens, Sketches by Boz, 1836


There was a time when if a man ventured to wonder how Vauxhall-gardens would look by day, he was hailed with a shout of derision at the absurdity of the idea. Vauxhall by daylight! A porter-pot without porter, the House of Commons without the Speaker, a gas-lamp without the gas - pooh, nonsense, the thing was not to be thought of. It was rumoured, too, in those times, that Vauxhall-gardens by day, were the scene of secret and hidden experiments; that there, carvers were exercised in the mystic art of cutting a moderate-sized ham into slices thin enough to pave the whole of the grounds; that beneath the shade of the tall trees, studious men were constantly engaged in chemical experiments, with the view of discovering how much water a bowl of negus could possibly bear; and that in some retired nooks, appropriated to the study of ornithology, other sage and learned men were, by a process known only to themselves, incessantly employed in reducing fowls to a mere combination of skin and bone.

Vague rumours of this kind, together with many others of a similar nature, cast over Vauxhall-gardens an air of deep mystery; and as there is a great deal in the mysterious, there is no doubt that to a good many people, at all events, the pleasure they afforded was not a little enhanced by this very circumstance. Of this class of people we confess to having made one. We loved to wander among these illuminated groves, thinking of the patient and laborious researches which had been carried on there during the day, and witnessing their results in the suppers which were served up beneath the light of lamps and to the sound of music at night. The temples and saloons and cosmoramas and fountains glittered and sparkled before our eyes; the beauty of the lady singers and the elegant deportment of the gentlemen, captivated our hearts; a few hundred thousand of additional lamps dazzled our senses; a bowl or two of punch bewildered our brains; and we were happy.

In an evil hour, the proprietors of Vauxhall-gardens took to opening them by day. We regretted this, as rudely and harshly disturbing that veil of mystery which had hung about the property for many years, and which none but the noonday sun, and the late Mr. Simpson, had ever penetrated. We shrunk from going; at this moment we scarcely know why. Perhaps a morbid consciousness of approaching disappointment - perhaps a fatal presentiment - perhaps the weather; whatever it was, we did NOT go until the second or third announcement of a race between two balloons tempted us, and we went.

We paid our shilling at the gate, and then we saw for the first time, that the entrance, if there had been any magic about it at all, was now decidedly disenchanted, being, in fact, nothing more nor less than a combination of very roughly-painted boards and sawdust. We glanced at the orchestra and supper-room as we hurried past - we just recognised them, and that was all. We bent our steps to the firework-ground; there, at least, we should not be disappointed. We reached it, and stood rooted to the spot with mortification and astonishment. THAT the Moorish tower - that wooden shed with a door in the centre, and daubs of crimson and yellow all round, like a gigantic watch-case! THAT the place where night after night we had beheld the undaunted Mr. Blackmore make his terrific ascent, surrounded by flames of fire, and peals of artillery, and where the white garments of Madame Somebody (we forget even her name now), who nobly devoted her life to the manufacture of fireworks, had so often been seen fluttering in the wind, as she called up a red, blue, or party-coloured light toillumine her temple! THAT the - but at this moment the bell rung; the people scampered away, pell-mell, to the spot from whence the sound proceeded; and we, from the mere force of habit, found ourself running among the first, as if for very life. It was for the concert in the orchestra. A small party of dismal men in cocked hats were 'executing' the overture to TANCREDI, and a numerous assemblage of ladies and gentlemen, with their families, had rushed from their half-emptied stout mugs in the supper boxes, and crowded to the spot. Intense was the low murmur of admiration when a particularly small gentleman, in a dress coat, led on a particularly tall lady in a blue sarcenet pelisse and bonnet of the same, ornamented with large white feathers, and forthwith commenced a plaintive duet.

We knew the small gentleman well; we had seen a lithographed semblance of him, on many a piece of music, with his mouth wide open as if in the act of singing; a wine-glass in his hand; and a table with two decanters and four pine-apples on it in the background. The tall lady, too, we had gazed on, lost in raptures of admiration, many and many a time - how different people DO look by daylight, and without punch, to be sure! It was a beautiful duet: first the small gentleman asked a question, and then the tall lady answered it; then the small gentleman and the tall lady sang together most melodiously; then the small gentleman went through a little piece of vehemence by himself, and got very tenor indeed, in the excitement of his feelings, to which the tall lady responded in a similar manner; then the small gentleman had a shake or two, after which the tall lady had the same, and then they both merged imperceptibly into the original air: and the band wound themselves up to a pitch of fury, and the small gentleman handed the tall lady out, and the applause was rapturous. The comic singer, however, was the especial favourite; we really thought that a gentleman, with his dinner in a pocket-handkerchief, who stood near us, would have fainted with excess of joy. A marvellously facetious gentleman that comic singer is; his distinguishing characteristics are, a wig approaching to the flaxen, and an aged countenance, and he bears the name of one of the English counties, if we recollect right. He sang a very good song about the seven ages, the first half-hour of which afforded the assembly the purest delight; of the rest we can make no report, as we did not stay to hear any more.

We walked about, and met with a disappointment at every turn; our favourite views were mere patches of paint; the fountain that had sparkled so showily by lamp-light, presented very much the appearance of a water-pipe that had burst; all the ornaments were dingy, and all the walks gloomy. There was a spectral attempt at rope-dancing in the little open theatre. The sun shone upon the spangled dresses of the performers, and their evolutions were about as inspiriting and appropriate as a country-dance in a family vault.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

1823 Connoisseur eavesdropping at Vauxhall

After Thomas Rowlandson, Dr Syntax at Vauxhall Gardens, engraving, 1817


An article from The Connoisseur appearing in Lionel Thomas Berguer's 1823 British Essays, gives an eavesdropping report of the behavior and conversation of a London merchant, his wife, and 2 daughters. The Connoisseur reportedly took notes from an adjoining box.


"After some talk, ‘Come, come,’ said the old don, ‘it is high time, I think, to go to supper.’

To this the ladies readily assented; and one of the misses said, ‘Do let us have a chick, papa.’

‘Zounds!’ said the father, ‘they are half-a-crown a-piece, and no bigger than a sparrow.’

Here the old lady took him up, ‘You are so stingy, Mr. Rose, there is no bearing with you. When one is out upon pleasure, I love to appear like somebody: and what signifies a few shillings once and away, when a body is about it?’

This reproof so effectually silenced the old gentleman, that the youngest miss had the courage to put in a word for some ham likewise: accordingly the waiter was called, and dispatched by the old lady with an order for a chicken and a plate of ham. When it was brought, our honest cit twirled the dish about three or four times, and surveyed it with a very settled countenance; then taking up the slice of ham, and dangling it to and fro on the end of his fork, asked the waiter how much there was of it.

‘A shilling's worth, Sir,’ said the fellow.

‘Prithee’, said the don, ‘how much dost think it weighs? An ounce? A shilling an ounce! that is sixteen shillings per pound! A reasonable profit truly! Let me see, suppose now the whole ham weighs thirty pounds; at a shilling per ounce, that is, sixteen shillings per pound, why! your master makes exactly twenty-four pounds of every ham; and if he buys them at the best hand, and salts and cures them himself, they don't stand him in ten shillings a-piece.’

The old lady bade him hold his nonsense, declared herself ashamed for him, and asked him if people must not live: then taking a coloured handkerchief from her own neck, she tucked it into his shirt-collar (whence it hung like a bib), and helped him to a leg of the chicken. The old gentleman, at every bit he put into his mouth, amused himself with saying, ‘There goes two-pence, there goes three-pence, there goes a groat..."

Thursday, August 6, 2020

1827 Vauxhall

Vauxhall The citizen at Vauxhall, by Smith; published by Harrison & Co, 1784.


Tour in England, Ireland, and France in The Years 1826, 1827, 1828, AND 1829.

With Remarks on The Manner and Customs of the Inhabitants and Anecdotes of Distinguished Public Characters by a German Prince (Philadelphia, 1833) pp. 156-158

July 12th, 1827
Yesterday evening I went for the first time to Vauxhall, a public garden in the style of Tivoli at Paris, but on a far grander and more brilliant scale. The illumination with thousands of lamps of the most dazzling [157] colours is uncommonly splendid. Especially beautiful were large bouquets of flowers hung in the trees, formed of red, blue, yellow, and violet lamps, and the leaves and stalks of green; there were also chandeliers of a gay Turkish sort of pattern of various hues, and a temple for the music, surmounted with the royal arms and crest. Several triumphal arches were not of wood, but of cast-iron, of light transparent patterns, infinitely more elegant, and quite as rich as the former. Beyond this the gardens extended with all their variety and their exhibitions, the most remarkable of which was the battle of Waterloo. They open at seven: there was an opera, rope-dancing, and at ten o'clock (to conclude) this same battle. It is curious enough, and in many scenes the deception really remarkable. An open part of the gardens is the theatre, surrounded by venerable horse-chestnuts mingled with shrubs. Between four of the former, whose foliage is almost impervious, was a 'tribune', with benches for about twelve hundred persons, reaching to the height of forty feet. Here we took our seats, not without a frightful squeeze, in which we had to give and take some hearty pushes. It was a warm and most lovely night: the moon shone extremely bright, and showed a huge red curtain, hung, at a distance of about fifty paces from us, between two gigantic trees, and painted with the arms of the United Kingdom. Behind the curtain rose the tops of the trees as far as one could see. After a moment's pause, the discharge of a cannon thundered through the seeming wood, and the fine band of the second regiment of Guards was heard in the distance. The curtain opened in the centre, was quickly drawn asunder; and we saw, as if by the light of day, the outwork of Houguemont on a gently rising ground, amid high trees. The French 'Gardes' in correct uniform now advanced out of the wood to martial music, with the bearded 'Sapeurs' at their head. They formed into line; and Napoleon on his gray horse, and dressed in his gray surtout, accompanied by several marshals, rode past them 'en revue.' A thousand voices shout 'Vive l'Empereur!'-the Emperor touches his hat, sets off at a gallop, and the troops bivouac in dense groups. A distant firing is then heard; the scene becomes more tumultuous, and the French march out. Shortly after, Wellington appears with his staff,-all very good copies of the individuals,-harangues his troops, and rides slowly off. The great original was among the spectators, and laughed heartily at his representative. The fight is begun by the 'tirailleurs;' whole columns then advance upon each other, and charge with the bayonet; the French cuirassiers charge the Scotch Grays; and as there as a thousand men and two hundred horses in action, and no spare of gunpowder, it is, for a moment, very like a real battle. The storming of Houguemont, which is set on fire by several shells, was particularly well done: the combatants were for a time hidden by the thick smoke of real fire, or only rendered partially visible by the flashes of musquetry, while the foreground was strewed with the dead and dying. As the smoke cleared off, Houguemont was seen in flames,-the English as conquerors, the French as captives: in the distance was Napoleon on horseback, and behind him his carriage-and-four hurrying across the scene. The victorious Wellington was greeted with loud cheers mingled with the thunder of the distant cannon. The ludicrous side of the exhibition was the making Napoleon race across the stage several times, pursued and fugitive, to tickle English vanity, and afford a triumph to the 'plebs' in good and bad coats. But such is the lot [158] of the great! The conqueror before whom the world trembled,-for whom the blood of millions was freely shed,-for whose glance or nod kings waited and watched,-is now a child's pastime, a tale of his times, vanished like a dream,-the Jupiter gone, and as it seems, Scapan only remaining.  Although past midnight it was still early enough to go from the strange scene of illumination and moonlight to a splendid ball at Lady L-'s where I found a blaze of diamonds, handsome women, dainty refreshments, a luxurious supper, and a gigantic ennui; I therefore went to bed as early as five o'clock.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

1844 Vauxhall Guidebook

Vauxhall C H Simpson Esqr. MCRGV 1833 by I. Robert Cruikshank William Kidd C. H. Simpson, Master of Ceremonies of the Royal Gardens Vauxhall, aged 63

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

Vauxhall Gardens ... from the want of patronage, have sadly suffered and the season, from the same cause, is rendered somewhat irregular. It may, however, be. generally stated, as commencing about the first week in June, and concluding the last week in August. The diversity of the entertainments have also altered the prices, that now vary according to the performances, from 1s. to 3s.

Vauxhall Gardens. - The time when this enchanting place of amusement was first opened for the entertainment of the public is not easy to be ascertained; but in the reign of Queen Anne it appears to have been a place of great public resort; for in the Spectator, No. 383. dated May 20. 1712, Mr. Addison has introduced his friend Sir Roger de Coverley, as accompanying him in a voyage from the Temple Stairs to Vauxhall, then termed Spring Gardens. The season commences in June, and terminates in August

On the right of the entrance is a grand quadrangle, called the Grove; it is surrounded with walks, planted with trees, and at the outer extremity are boxes for the accommodation of supper parties; in the centre is the orchestra, a magnificent Gothic temple, richly ornamented; it contains an excellent organ, and here, in fine weather, a concert of vocal and instrumental music is performed; facing the orchestra, is a pavilion of the Composite order, sixty feet in length, called the Prince's Gallery, in compliment to the late Prince of Wales, who, in times gone past, was in the habit of frequenting these gardens, and supping here. The ascent to this is by a double flight of steps, under a fine portico; behind it is an extensive supper-room. The Rotunda is a noble room, sixty-seven feet in diameter; this is fitted up as a theatre, and here concerts are occasionally, and vaudevilles, generally, performed. The whole is splendidly illuminated, and, in addition to concerts and a variety of entertainments, the performance is concluded by a brilliant display of fireworks. Balloon ascents have been added to the amusements of Vauxhall, and, during the two last seasons, are generally considered to have materially advanced the interest of the proprietors.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

1859 Punch looks at Vauxhall's last days

From Punch, August 6th, 1859

Comrades, you may leave me sitting in the mouldy arbour here,
With the chicken-bones before me and the empty punch-bowl near.

'Rack' they called the punch that in it fiercely fumed, and freely flowed:
By the pains that rack my temples, sure the name was well bestowed.

Leave me comrades, to my musings, 'mid the mildewed timber-damps,
While from sooty branches round me splutter out the stinking lamps.

While through rent and rotten canvas sighs the bone-mill laden breeze;
And the drip-damp statues glimmer through the gaunt and ghastly trees.

And the seedy stucco crumbles from the orchestra hard by;
And the firework-frames like gibbets rear their arms athwart the sky.

And the monster platform stretches blank and bare beneath the moon;
And the night wind through the boxes, wanders with an eery croon.

Let me sit and sadly ponder on the glories of Vauxhall;
Sink this mouldy mildewed present; from its grave the past recall.

Is't the punch that stirs my fancy—or the gooseberry champagne,
Sets phantasmal shapes careering through the chambers of my brain?

Dimly, as though clouds a-steaming from a thousand fragrant bowls,
Periwigged, pulvilio-scented, Charles the Second's revel rolls.

In gay doublet, trimmed and broidered, ribboned shoulder, ribboned knee,
Brouncker rants, and Newport roysters, while Sam Pepys stands by to see —

Sounds the Nightingale's sweet twitter from the green trees overhead;
Shrieks below the City Madam with Court gallants sore bestead.

Hark, 'tis pretty Mrs. Mercer, trolling out Tom D'Urfey's song:
Hark, to Castlemaine's loud laughter — brazen'st of the brazen throng.

Saucy Jennings with Count Gramont bandying the mot pour rise;
Nell Gwynne fondling handsome Sydney, spite of Buckhurst frowning near.

Charles himself, his black face hidden in a vizor blacker still,
Laughing, ogling, and oddfishing, light of wit and loose of will.

See the cheesecake blithely broken, and the syllabubs afoam;
Hark at Thames, alive with boat-loads, for Spring Gardens, or for home.

Drugget aproned drawers bearing Claret and Canary-pottles
For wild wits and bona-robas to refresh their thirsty throttles:

And through all, sly, smug Sam Pepys, with a twinkle in his eye,
Taking careful note for entry in his Diary, by-and-bye.

Thicker rise the fumes, and faster, but less furious streams the rout,
As Queen Ann's decorous following bows the merry Monarch's out.

See the long, thin-faced Spectator, elbowing his silent way,
For Sir Roger, close behind him, open-mouthed and eyes astray;

Rapt in wonder at the music, and the movement, and the sights;
Elbowed by the vizored Madams, dazzled by the thousand lights.

This way swaggers Steel, half tipsey, but still kindly in his drink;
There good-humoured little Gay, to loose Mat Prior tips the wink.

Swift stalks, rolling indignation in his blazing deep blue eye;
St John laughs off state blue-devils with Lord Oxford smooth and sly.

They have passed and now the Georges usher in a duller race,
Blank the scene, till sudden lighted by the look of Walpole's face.

There he sits — the wizened watcher — cynical and calm and cool,
Ready to note other's follies, or himself to play the fool.

There the Petersham sits blazing with her rouge and saucy stare;
There the crowd applauds the Gunnings — fairest sisters of the fair.

Here trots Bozzy all in triumph with the Doctor on his arm;
While, not less triumphant, Goldy guards "the Jessamy bride" from harm.

Pass, familiar shadows, trooping to the land of Long-ago;
Let the Regency's hot orgies set more brimming bowls aflow,

Room for rampant Colonel Hanger! Bloods and Bucks of Carlton House,
Box the watch and smash the tables, shiver glass, and wax-lights douse.

Room for Prince Hal redivivus — petticoats and pimps and all —
Down before that wig so curly and that coat so creaseless fall!

Room for Almack's maccaronis — room for Brooks's playmen true,
March and Selwyn, Fox and Carlisle — set the punch-bowls blazing blue!

Masquerade and gay Ridotto blend the cream and scum of town;
Statesman's toils, and senate's glories, with Soho's endearments crown.

While o'erhead the ghost of Simpson lifts the ceremonial hat,
In deportment but inferior unto George the Great (by fat).

With such phantoms for evoking, shall I summon sorrier shades?
Ghosts of gentish generations — stray of shops and waif of trades?

Shaddows of cheap shilling galas, flickerings of a dying flame;
Straws by desperate speculation clutched at, in its drowning game?

No —amid these wretched ruins, trees all black and walks all green —
Be the ghosts of my evoking such as graced the ancient scene.

Be they ghosts girt with glory, somewhat sulphurous thought it be;
Ghosts of the Vauxhall that hath been — not of the Vauxhall we see.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

1853 Vauxhall

Vauxhall The Royal Sneak, or, Mrs. Etiquette Driving the Prince from the Fete at Vauxhall, published 1813 by J. Johnston, London

Max Schlesinger, Saunterings in and about London, 1853

Vauxhall was born in the Regency, in one of the wicked nights of dissolute Prince George. A wealthy speculator was its father; a prince was its godfather, and all the fashion and beauty of England stood round its cradle. In those days Vauxhall was very exclusive and expensive. At present, it is open to all ranks and classes, and half a guinea will frank a fourth-rate milliner and sweetheart through the whole evening.

A Londoner wants a great deal for his money, or he wants little—take it which way you please. The programme of Vauxhall is an immense carte for the eye and the ear: music, singing, horsemanship, illuminations, dancing, rope-dancing, acting, comic songs, hermits, gipsies, and fireworks, on the most “stunning” scale. It is easier to read the K├Âlner Zeitung than the play-bill of Vauxhall.

With respect to the quantity of sights, it is most difficult to satisfy an English public. They have “a capacious swallow” for sights, and require them in large masses as they do the meat which graces their tables. As to quality, that is a minor consideration; and to give the English public its due, it is the most grateful of all publics.

The entrance to Vauxhall is dismally dark and prison-like ….. The dismal aspect of the entrance is the result of artistic speculation; it is a piece of theatrical claptrap. For all of a sudden we emerge from the darkness of the passage into a dazzling sea of light, which almost blinds one. All the arbours, avenues, grottos and galleries of the gardens are covered with lamps; the trees are lighted to the very tops; each leaf has its coloured lady-bird of a gas-light. Where the deuce did those people ever get those lamps ! And how did they ever get them lighted.! It must be confessed that the manager has done his duty. If you can show him a single leaf without its lamp, he will surely jump into the Thames or hang himself on the branch which way thus shamefully neglected. …

The gardens are crowded; dense masses are congregated around a sort of open temple, which at Vauxhall stands in lieu of a music-room. The first part of the performance is just over; and a lady, whose voice is rather the worse for wear, and who defies the cool of the evening with bare shoulders and arms, is in the act of being encored. She is delighted, and so are the audience. Many years ago this spot witnessed the performances of Grisi, Rubini, Lablache, and other first-class musical celebrities.

The crowd promenade these gardens in all directions. In the background is a gloomy avenue of trees, where loving couples walk, and where the night-air is tinged with the hue of romance. Even the bubbling of a fountain may be heard in the distance. We go in search of the sound; but, alas, we witness nothing save the triumph of the insane activity of the illuminator. A tiny rivulet forces its way through the grass; it is not deep enough to drown a herring, yet it is wide enough and babbling enough to impart an idyllic character to the scene. But how has this interesting little water-course fared under the hands of the illuminator? The wretch has studded its banks with rows of long arrow-headed gas-lights. Not satisfied with lighting up the trees, and walls, and dining-saloons, he must needs meddle with this lilliputian piece of water also. That is English taste, which delights in quantities: no Frenchman would ever have done such a thing!

Following the rivulet, we reach the bank of a gas-lit pond, with a gigantic Neptune and eight white sea-horses. To the left of the god opens another gloomy avenue, which leads us straight-way to Fate, to the hermit, and the temple of Pythia, who, in the guise of a gipsy, reclining on straw under a straw-roofed shed, with a stable lanthorn at her side, is in the habit of reading the most brilliant Future on the palm of your hand, for the ridiculously low price of sixpence only. This is specially English; no house without its fortifications — no open-air amusements without gipsies. The prophetess of Vauxhall is by no means a person of repulsive appearance. You admire in her a comely brown daughter of Israel, with black hair and dark eyes; it is very agreeable to listen to her expounding your fate. She is good-tempered and agreeable, and has a Californian prophecy for all corners. She predicts faithful wives, length of days, a grave in a free soil to every one, even to the German.

The dwelling of the sage hermit is much less primitive, nor are believers permitted to enter it. They must stand on the threshold, from whence they may admire a weird and awful scenery — mountains, precipices and valleys, and the genius loci, a large cat with fiery eyes, all charmingly worked in canvas and pasteboard, with a strict and satisfactory regard for the laws of perspective. The old man, with his beard so white and his staff so strong, comes up from the mysterious depth of a pasteboard ravine ; he asks a few questions and disappears again, and in a few minutes the believer receives his or her Future, carefully copied out on cream-coloured paper, and in verses, too, with his or her name as an anagram. Of course these papers are all ready written and prepared by the dozen, and as one lady of our party had the name of Hedwig—by no means a common name in England—she had to wait a good long while before she was favoured with a sight of her fate. This, of course, strengthened her belief in the hermit and the fidelity of her husband.

We, the Pilgrims of Vauxhall, leave the hermit’s cell. Our eyes have become accustomed to the twilight, and as we proceed we behold, in the background, the tower and battlements of a large and fantastically-built tower. Can this be Westminster Abbey, or is it a mere optical delusion? Let us see.

Hark! a gun is fired in the shrubbery. The promenaders, who are familiar with the place, turn round, and all rush in one direction, sweeping us along with them. Before we can collect ourselves, we have been pushed forward to a panoramic stage, on which Nelson, in plaster, is in the act of expiring, while Wellington, in pasteboard, rides over the battle-field of Waterloo. These two figures are the worst of their kind; still the public cheer the two national heroes. No house without its fortifications—no open-air amusements without gipsies—and no play without the old Admiral and the old General.

Wellington has scarcely triumphed over Napoleon, and silenced the French batteries, when the cannonade recommences in the shrubbery: one — two guns ! it is the signal for the arena. Unless you purchase a seat in the boxes or the galleries, you have no chance of seeing the exhibition in the circus, for the pit, which is gratis, is crowded to suffocation. Englishmen care more for live horses than they do for pasteboard chargers, fraught though they be with national reminiscences.

The productions of horsemanship at Vauxhall are exactly on a par with similar exhibitions on the other side of the Channel. Britons are more at home on horseback, or on board a ship, than on the strings of the fiddle, or on the ivory keys of the pianoforte. And thus, then, do the men and women dance on unsaddled horses, play with balls and knives, and jump through paper and over boards ; half a dozen of old and young clowns distort their joints ; a lady dances on a rope, a la marionette; and Miss A., who was idolised at Berlin, and whom seven officers of the Horse Guards presented with a bracelet, on which their seven heroic faces were displayed, condescends to produce her precious bracelet and her precious person in this third-rate circus; and an American Gusikow makes music on wood, straw, and leather; and the horses are neighing, and the whips smacking, and the sand is being thrown up, and the boarding trembles with the tramp of the horses, and there is no end of cheering; and Miss A. re-appears and curtsies, with the seven gentlemen of the Horse Guards on her arm; and another gun is fired, and the public, leaving the circus, rush madly into the gardens. To the fireworks! they are the most brilliant exhibition of the evening. The gardens are bathed in a bluish light, and the many thousand lamps look all pale and ominous. The gigantic and fantastic city, which before loomed through the twilight of the distant future, burns now in Bengal fire. It is Moscow! it is the Kremlin, and they are burning it! Sounds of music, voices of lamentation, issue from the flames, guns are firing, rockets shoot up and burst with an awful noise, the walls give way—they fall, and from the general destruction issues a young girl, with very thin clothing and very little of it, who makes her escape over a rope at a dizzy height. The exhibition is more awful than agreeable; but the public cheer this, as they do any other neck-or-nothing feat. If the girl were to carry a baby on her perilous way, the cheering would be still greater.

It is past midnight. The wind is cold, and fresh guests are crowding in to join the ball, which is kept up to the break of day. But we have not the least inclination to watch the ungraceful movements of English men who dance with English women, or of English women who dance with English men. We hail a cab and hasten home.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

1859 Vauxhall

Vauxhall Madam Saqui Descending In 1816, Madame Saqui ascended and descended a tightrope that was fixed to a 60 foot mast accompanied by a firework display

Monday, 25 July. . . to Vauxhall. It was the last night: dense crowds of people filled the gardens: the circus, the ballet, the dancing & concerts, the supper— rooms, the rifle shooting, the fortune telling, the coloured lamps and the statues in the long walks—all were there as usual; there was no sign of dissolution: there was nothing in the noisy gaiety of the people (except perhaps that noisy gaiety itself) to show that they knew they were meeting there for the last time. But over all, in large letters formed of coloured lamps, hung the words ‘Farewell for ever.’ These were the moral of it all... . It is indeed much for a thoughtful man, to have seen the last of Vauxhall: to muse for the last time in those dim lighted - alleys, and cry Vanitas vanitatum, and call up melancholy shadows of Kings & Court ladies to put to shame the living laughing crowd: but the real sting is, that it is all over.
Arthur Munby, Diary, 1859

Friday, July 17, 2020

1835 Cruikshank on Vauxhall

Cruikshank's Comic Almanack for 1835
 VAUXHALL.
"Dear Jane, will you go to Vauxhall?
We want just to make up a dozen;
Papa will stand treat for us all,
And, be sure, give a hint to your cousin.

There's something so charming about him,
(I've got a new bonnet and shawl)—
I should be quite unhappy without him,
And careless of even VAUXHALL.

My confession you'll never betray,
For I'm sure you can manage it all;
When you ask him, don't tell what I say,
But speak of the charms of VAUXHALL.

You can talk of the songs and the singers,
The orchestra, ballet, and ball;
I shall think that time spitefully lingers
Till when we all meet at VAUXHALL.

Say, there's Simpson the brave, who commanded
Our troops in the year forty-five;
Who killed Count de Grasse single-handed,
And took the French army alive.

And remember the lamps, - how they're clustered,
By thousands and thousands of dozens;
And then the dark walks - how I'm fluster'd
To think of your dearest cousins!

You can talk of the fireworks so gay,
And just mention the ham and the chicken—
We'll contrive to get out of the way,
While papa makes an end of his picking.

I should grieve to think drinking could charm him—
But ere all my project should fall,
If nothing in nature can warm him,
Then speak of the punch at VAUXHALL.

If all that you say don't avail,
I must die with vexation and anguish;
But I'm sure that your friendship won't fail
Your affectionate

                              LYDIA LANGUISH"

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

1785 John Gilpin. A Trip to Vauxhall

John Oakman: 
A SECOND HOLIDAY for JOHN GILPIN, Or a Voyage to Vaux-hall, where, tho' he had better Luck than before, he was far from being contented.
London: E Tringham (1785) In a scrapbook in British Library, C.20.f.2 (256)

[Some losses to verses 3-11, due to damage to left hand edge of page]
John Gilpin was a citizen
Of credit and renown,
A common-council man was he,
of famous London town.
Most folks have heard of Gilpin's fame,
And of the race he won,
When he on horse back did set out,
All unto Edmonton.
[A]nd never since that luckless time,
Which gave him such dismay;
[F]or ten whole years, had he, and spouse,
Enjoy'd, a holiday.
[T]he main chance minding, still at home,
On bus'ness quite intent;
[H]e made amends, there is no doubt,
For what that day was spent.
[T]heir daughters rising in their teens,
Were innocent, and gay,
[A]nd as young girls, they often beg'd
To have a holiday.
Good Mistress Gilpin had a heart,
Her pretty girls to please;
[B]ut how to win John Gilpin to't,
Was not a task of ease.
[H]owe'er , said she, leave that to me,
It never will cause strife;
[For] he will, sure, comply once more
[T]o please his loving wife.
[She] mark'd the time, in chearful mood,
[Jo]hn Gilpin for to see;
[When u]nto him thus did she speak,
[On]e evening o'er their tea.
["My] dear, you must a favour grant,
Your tenderness to prove;"
[Says] Gilpin, "what is your desire?
[I] can't deny my love."
[Wh]y, there's my sweetest life, said she,
And strok'd his smirking face,
[A]t which he kiss'd his dearest dear,
And smil'd with comely grace.
[You] know, said she, "Since that sad day,
"Which we could not foresee,
"That we have never thought upon,
"An other holiday.
"Ten circling years have made their round,
"And time comes stealing on;
"Next Tuesday is our wedding day,
"Then pray let us have one."
John Gilpin hum'd, and ha'd awhile,
Then cried, "it shall be so,
"Yet hope, you do not mean, my dear,
"To EDMONTON to go.
"That cursed jaunt I can't forget,
"Which brought me such disgrace;"
"No, no, my dear, she quick reply'd,
"I mean a nearer place.
"Amusements round the town are found,
"Delighting unto all;
"Therefore with me, if you'll agree,
"We'll go to sweet Vaux-hall.
"A sculler, sure, will take us all,
"The purchase can't be great;
"And then along the silver Thames,
"How we shall ride in state."
"Thy will be done, John Gilpin cry'd,
"I like thy thought in this;
"The ev'ning is not all the day,
"Much bus'ness we can't miss.
"Then Mistress Gilpin said to John,
"That we may all be gay,
"Your very suit you shall have on,
"Made for your wedding-day.
"Your lac'd cravat, and beaver hat,
"Your cane with head of gold,
"With roll'd up hose, and then you'll be
"Most charming to behold."
At length the happy time arriv'd,
John Gilpin neatly dress'd,
Look'd like a citizen, indeed,
Array'd in all his best.
The Misses, with their kind Mama,
All furbelow'd about,
With proper cloaks, in case of rain,
In joyful mood set out.
And now unto the river's side,
They smilingly drew near;
The Watermen, cries "Gilpin", comes,
And run to get the fair.
Now seated in the cleanly boat,
How smoothly did they glide;
Their hearts were ev'ry one on float,
As was the flowing tide.
The daughters gracefully did look,
Which graces much my theme,
Stately as are the downy swans
That swim upon the stream.
John Gilpin view'd with joy the pair,
(Forgive him this small pride)
And thought them pictures of his dear,
When she became his bride.
Good Mistress Gilpin too was pleas'd,
Because she then did find,
That tho' her charms began to fade,
They bloom'd in Gilpin's mind.
Boat, after boat, now press'd the tide,
And seem'd to swim a race;
John fear'd, lest some mischance shou'd hap,
As in the former case.
For not to pleasure much inclin'd,
Fate seem'd to be his foe,
To make of him the laughing stock,
Wherever he did go.
His person known, likewise his name!
The wags, as they row'd by,
Cried, smoke John Gilpin, that's the man
That rode so manfully.
At this alarm'd, he hung his head,
Asham'd of his disgrace;
But with their dashing oars, they dash'd
The water in his face.
Then bounce against the boat they went,
Which made the Ladies scream,
And Gilpin's hat, by sudden jerk,
Went souse into the stream.
Too swift it sail'd to be o'ertook,
Which made the wags more gay,
And all cry'd out, "see Gilpin's hat,
"How fast it runs away."
When Mistress Gilpin thought his hat
most certainly was gone;
She whisper'd to him, pray take care
Your perriwig keep on.
I fear my dear you may take cold;
But other thoughts had he:
So he secur'd it with both hands,
Which else away might flee.
For loss of hat and wig before,
Came fresh into his mind,
When he the race did run to Ware,
"And left the world behind."
But patient still, yet full of fear
That matters might go worse,
And make the water prove as bad
As formerly the horse.
He only to the sneerers said,
"I let you have your way,
"An other time it may be mine,
"Each dog must have his day."
So on he went, and on went they,
'Till coming near the shore,
Well pleas'd was Gilpin to behold
His hat was there before.
The boats push'd in from ev'ry part,
And try'd which first should land;
But glad was he the hat to see
So near unto his hand.
He snatch'd it up with all his might,
And eke with joy and glee,
Then bowing of his head, he said,
"Your welcome, Sir, to me."
Then getting all upon dry land,
He to his wife did say,
"My other hat, you know, my dear,
"Was carried quite away.
"But this, more honest, comes again,
"And when I get him home,
"I'll keep him safe within a box,
"That he no more shall roam."
Beneath his arm his hat he plac'd,
You'll guess the reason why,
In hopes, before he came away,
Again it might be dry.
And in this state they march'd along,
Unto the garden gay,
Where he was vex'd to find he had
Four shillings, there to pay.
Yet scarcely had he pass'd the door,
And to the place got in,
When "here's John Gilpin," all did roar,
And all did laugh and grin.
The ladies, with the beaus and wits,
Came crouding all around,
And cried, "John Gilpin," is it you,
Pray, whither are you bound?
John answer'd not, but with his wife
And daughters, went along
To listen to the musick sweet,
And hear a pretty song.
O! charming, cried the Misses both,
Do, Mama, Papa, hark,
I'm sure, O! dear, that thrilling voice
Is sweeter than the lark.
Aye, aye, cry'd Gilpin, it will do,
'Tis very fine, in brief,
But I should like much more to hear,
Britannia, or roast beef.
Then turning round, the trees he view'd,
With orchestre so fine,
The waiters running here, and there,
With chickens, ham, and wine.
But as he turn'd too suddenly,
'Tis sad the tale to tell,
Against a waiter's hand he struck,
And down a bottle fell.
All in a stream the wine it flow'd,
Which gave to him much pain;
Yet he for it was forc'd to pay,
And it was dear Champagne.
He thought it hard to pay for that,
Which he did never taste;
His frugal wife was not well pleas'd,
To see it run to waste.
Such accidents, says she, my dear,
Will happen, you do know;
But never mind it, we must have
Some wine before we go.
His daughters, as the story tells,
Thought ham, and chick, right fit,
Because their appetites now serv'd
To pick a little bit.
At this John Gilpin bent his brow,
His lady cried, "My dear,
"Pray let us do as others do,
"Since we are now come here."
The wine, the ham, the chick was brought,
With tarts and cheese-cakes too;
On ev'ry thing he comments made,
And carefully did view.
What! two-and-sixpence for a chick,
He said, was plaugy dear;
The wine was short, he'd rather had
A pot of Trueman's beer.
The wine was Port, and he survey'd
The bottle in each part,
And cried, I'm sure it wants three gills
To make a little quart.
He eat and grumbl'd all the while,
He grumbl'd, yet he paid;
For still to pay, was Gilpin's way,
By ev'ry one, 'tis said.
A coach was call'd, which griev'd him sore,
And so they went away;
But Gilpin thought he ne'er wou'd have
Another holiday.
Now let us sing, long live the King,
And Gilpin! long live he;
To Vaux-hall shou'd he go again,
May I be there to see.

Monday, July 13, 2020

1791 James Boswell's Description of Vauxhall Gardens in Life of Johnson

James Boswell of Auchinleck by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–92)

In his work, "The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1791)" James Boswell, a master of the informative aside, takes a moment away from his main subject to sing the praises of "that excel-lent place of publick amusement, Vauxhall Gardens," so "peculiarly adapted to the taste of the English nation." These pleasure gardens were situated just south of the River Thames, almost opposite what is now the Tate Gallery. Boswell described them as "a mixture...of curious show, gay exhibition, musick, vocal and instrumental, not too refined for the general ear; - for all of which only a shilling is paid; and, though last, not least, good eating and drinking for those who choose to purchase that regale."
Dr Samuel Johnson by Sir Joshua Reynolds Joshua Reynolds (1723–92) - National Portrait Gallery, London

James Boswell (1740-1795) was a lawyer, diarist, and author born in Edinburgh. He is best known as the biographer of Samuel Johnson. Boswell is known for taking voracious notes on the grand tour of Europe that he took as a young nobleman and, subsequently, of his tour to Scotland with Johnson. He also recorded meetings and conversations with eminent individuals belonging to 'The Club,' including David Garrick, Edmund Burke, Joshua Reynolds, and Oliver Goldsmith. Samuel Johnson was born in Lichfield in 1709, and was educated at Lichfield Grammar School and, for a short time, at Pembroke College, Oxford. In 1735, he married Elizabeth Jervis Porter and in 1737, they moved to London. There, he became a regular contributor to the Gentleman's Magazine, but struggled to earn a living from writing. His London: A Poem in Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal was published anonymously in 1738 and attracted some attention. From 1750 to 1752 he issued the Rambler, a periodical written almost entirely by himself, and consolidated his position as a notable moral essayist with some 25 essays in the Adventurer. When his Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1755, Johnson took on the proportions of a literary monarch in the London of his day. In need of money to visit his sick mother, he wrote Rasselas (1759) reportedly in the evenings of one week, finishing a couple of days after his mother's death. In 1763, Boswell became his faithful follower and it is mainly due to him that we owe our intimate knowledge of Johnson. Johnson's last major work was Lives of the Poets. He died in December 1784. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Sports & Games - 1799 Women at Archery

Archery J. H. Wright, Active 1795-1838, Archers, archery 1799. By this period, archery was not limited to defense or hunting game, it had become a sporting pastime for both men & women. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Sports & Games - 1787 Skittles - A Little Disagreement with the "Authorities" a Local Tavern or Inn

Pub'd as the Act directs, for the proprietor by W. Dickie, No. Strand, E. Macklew, No. 9 Haymarket and W. Moore, No. 48 New Bond Street, 1787 Sept. 17th. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C 

The rise of Methodism and concerns for stricter morality & order became more apparent in Britain in the mid-late 18C. At this time, skittle grounds were scenes of crime. A response to the magistrates who dictated that skittle grounds in and near London to be level, and the frames removed. In 1751, skittles was one of several pub games to be banned, with publicans potentially losing their licence and being fined for allowing them to be played.The first set of restrictions may have applied just to places that sold spirits, rather than simple ale-houses, because further legislation was passed in 1757, to reinforce that but aimed specifically at the working class. Newspapers reported plenty of drunkenness, as well as robberies, fights, & even murders there.

Print shows three men of some importance trying to pry a skittle board from the ground using bars labeled "Justass" and "Mo-Ral-I-Ty"; a pick labeled "Proclamation" lies on the ground nearby with balls and pegs, and from over a fence a donkey brays at them; a tavern keeper stands to the left holding a tankard on which is written "Done ... over," also, two men have large birds stuffed in their coat pockets or something like that.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Sports & Games - 1593-1786 Grounds for Gentlemen & for Monkeys

Skittles Rules and instructions for playing at skittles. By a Society of Gentlemen 1786


View of a skittle ground at Hampstead, 1796


Children's games, including skittles, played by monkeys. 1593 Etching on paper, produced by Pieter van der Borcht (Flemish printmaker, 1545-1608)  edited by Justus Sadeler

Wednesday, July 1, 2020