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Sunday

London. Society and the Season

In the 19th century the fancy London society was composed of about 1500 families, total of some 10 000 people. They usually settled within a relatively small area of the West End. The most desirable residences were next to Hyde Park on Park Lane, Grosvenor Square and Berkely Square in Mayfair. St. James was a respectable area with Pall Mall with its clubs and Buckingham Palace. Further south was slightly less desirable but still fashionable area of Belgrave Square. Society shopped on Bond Street and Regent Street, and the latter for men after the theater and dinner was the place to meet unmarried ladies of a more forthcoming sexuality.
As a rule the nobility and gentry began coming to town to the West Endfrom their country estates sometime around Christmas to prepare for the opening of Parliament, which depended on sport (shooting and fox hunting).

Sir George Hayter. The House of Commons. 1833



In London it was up early to go riding in Hyde Park preferably om the Sandy Track known as Rotten Row and Ladies Mile for women, then home for breakfast. Then shopping and making calls for ladies and lunch came next, followed for men by the clubs.
Dinner time was around 6 or 7, and in the evening there were soirees or the opera, and then the balls and dances till 3 a.m.
After a short Easter holiday the real season began - a dizzying 3-month whirlwind of parties, balls, sporting events - which opened by the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art. That was the time of the deadly serous business of marrying off the young girls to eligible and wealthy, and titled young men.

Gilbert Stuart. Ann Pennington

Thomas Sully. Portrait of Misses Mary and Emily McEuen, 1823

John Wesley Jarvis. Philip Hone


A well-bred young girl before she was a debutante had always the same sort of dress - a close bonnet for instance looks demure and never says a word. At dinners she didn't speak unless spoken to and limited with answers yes or no.
Overnight her life changed she dressed and wore her hair in an adult fashion.
Then there was an eagerly anticipated event in her life - the presentation to the sovereign at St. James, which was followed by an extraordinary round of balls and dances.

Charles Edward Halle. Preparing for the Ball



When she came out in 1849 Lady Dorothy Nevill attended 50 balls, 60 parties, 30 dinners and 25 breakfasts. If a girl didn't get married during 2-3 seasons she was considered a failure.

Franz Xaver Simm. Preparing For the Ball


In May and June - 2 great annual sport events took place - the overwhelmingly popular Derby and the exclusive Ascot horse races. Henly Regatta proceeded in July with various cricket contests.
The end of the season descended with the ajournment of the Parliament on August 12th and the opening of the grouse season. Everyone was looking forward to leisure days in the country - partridge shooting began on September 1st, October 1st the pheasant season opened. The first Monday of November there came the traditional opening of the fox hunting season.

W.P.Frith. The Derby Day

William Powell Frith. Yorkshire, Inglaterra.

John Nost Sartorius. Full Cry

Edwin Landseer. Windsor Castle in Modern Times, 1841-45

Joseph Mallord William Turner. Raby Castle, the Seat of the Earl of Darlington

J.M.W.Turner. What You Will:1822

Asher B. Durand

I'm reading Daniel Pool's "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew", the real story behind the presentation at court, governesses, houses with names, card games, the priceless introduction to the Victorian England.

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