Friday, January 6, 2012

Public Spectacles, Amusements, and Objects Deserving Notice, January

I have been known upon occasion to make a public spectacle of myself, most notably when my alter ego Sir Reginald Scott, Regency dandy and impoverished baronet seeking a wealthy wife, makes an appearance. However, I thought you might find it amusing and deserving of your notice if my first Friday posts this year consisted of all the interesting things a young lady or gentleman might have taken part in during the nineteenth century in London for that month.

So, let’s say you are a young gentleman out to impress a lady or a young lady looking for entertainment. The Season hasn’t started yet; London is rather thin for company. What could you do there in January in the nineteenth century?

Ah, there’s Twelfth Night celebrations throughout the day today (January 6). We’ve talked about family celebrations before. But there were more public activities as well. For instance, you could attend services at the Chapel Royal in St. James’s. The Bishop of London presided and presented an offering of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and the music was by some of the top performers of the day. (This according to The Picture of London.) In a time when music didn’t play all that large a part of religious celebrations, I’d be interested in knowing how they pulled that off. If your tastes run more to, well, tastes, you could wander the pastry shops this evening, where Twelfth Night Cakes would be illuminated for your viewing. I’m sure you’d want to take one home.

Later this month, around the 20th, lectures commence at the Royal Institution (see below) on such fascinating subjects as chemistry and galvanism, and you can also find lectures on medicine, surgery, and botany at the various hospitals and homes of medical men. Of course, a few fashion-conscience mamas may discourage their daughters from taking part in the former (only bluestockings allowed!), and the more faint-hearted may take exception to the grisly accounts in the latter!

Now, if you’re in the mood for something more adventurous, January appears to be the traditional time for the start of masquerades. Some were held at the Opera House or the Argyll Rooms. Keep an eye on the newspapers for advertisements, and remember that anyone who could pay the price could be admitted, so these could get a bit dangerous. If you haven’t time to construct your own costume, you can hire one from a masquerade warehouse.

But of course you don’t have to wait for the newspapers to announce the most exciting event of January. We have that right here! Come back next week when the Young Bluestockings discuss Y.S. Lee’s A Spy in the House!

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