Dancing Through Time

Western Social Dance in Literature, 1400–1918: Selections

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About the Book

From Chaucer to Fitzgerald, writers have used dancing as a vital, if subtle, element in plot and character development. The ballroom, an important element of society in real life, was a backdrop to grand passions or pivotal encounters—ideal ground for commentary on the social milieu.
This work presents 88 literary selections (from etiquette manuals, diaries, poems, plays, essays and novels) that together form a survey of social dance in England and America over a span of 500 years. They illustrate specific dances, social dance behavior or the intimate reactions of participants. One finds, for example, the ultimate downfalls of Flaubert’s Emma Bovary, Hardy’s Eustacia Vye, and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina are all foretold in pivotal dance scenes. Fully indexed.

About the Author(s)

Allison Thompson is a writer, historian, and folk dance leader and musician. (She was the student dance leader for the Elizabethan May Day festival held at Earlham College in 1977.) She lives in Pittsburgh.

Bibliographic Details

Compiled by Allison Thompson
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 272
Bibliographic Info: notes, index
Copyright Date: 2012 [1998]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7391-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance: 1400 to 1650
Introduction      7
Sir Mirthe’s Carole (GEOFFREY CHAUCER)      14
Instruction in the Dance (THOINET ARBEAU)      16
The Masque of Beauty (BEN JOHNSON)      20
Of Masques and Triumphs (FRANCIS BACON)      23
At the Wedding of Lady Quiteria (MIGUEL CERVANTES)      25
Fetchen Home the May (EDMUND SPENSER)      28
Foot It, Girls! (WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE)      30
Rallied by Scorn (WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE)      31
Wooing, Wedding and Repenting (WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE)      31
The Bridal Feast (THOMAS HEYWOOD)      32
Good Fellows Must Go Learn to Dance (ANONYMOUS)      35
The Dance of Love (SIR JOHN DAVIES)      36

The Restoration of Pleasure: 1651 to 1759
Introduction      39
Preface to the English Dancing Master (JOHN PLAYFORD)      46
Of the Ceremonial Observed at the King’s Grand Ball (P. RAMEAU)      48
This Day (SAMUEL PEPYS)      50
Nothing So Necessary to Mankind (MOLIERE)      53
The Gentleman Dancing Master (WILLIAM WYCHERLEY)      56
The Art of Dancing (SOAME JENYNS)      59
It May Be Practiced Innocently (EUSTACE BUDGELL)      64
Joan Sanderson, Or, the Cushion Dance (JOHN PLAYFORD)      67
Gratiana Dancing (RICHARD LOVELACE)      68
Don’t Be Ridiculous (LORD CHESTERFIELD)      68
Attention to the Dance (LORD CHESTERFIELD)      69
Genteel Carriage (LORD CHESTERFIELD)      70
Dancing the Rudiment of Polite Education (HENRY FIELDING)      70
Pamela’s Lament (SAMUEL RICHARDSON)      72
The May-Pole (ROBERT HERRICK)      73
The Country Life (ROBERT HERRICK)      74
Joan to the Maypole Away (ANONYMOUS)      75
The Rural Dance About the May-Pole (ANONYMOUS)      77
The May Pole Speaks (THOMAS HALL)      78

The Age of Reason: 1760 to 1799
Introduction      81
Rules for an Amicable Society (BALTIMORE ASSEMBLY)      87
A Treatise on the Art of Dancing (GIOVANNI GALLINI)      89
Evelina Makes a Mistake (FRANCES BURNEY)      92
Her Grandmother Takes Evelina to a Ball (FRANCES BURNEY)      97
Fashions and Follies (FRANCES BURNEY)      98
These Damn’d French Steps (RICHARD SHERIDAN)      100
The Jealous Lover (RICHARD SHERIDAN)      101
The Pleasures of Bath (TOBIAS SMOLLETT)      103
The Vicar Holds an Informal Frisk (OLIVER GOLDSMITH)      106
The Grace (LAURENCE STERNE)      107
The Pleasures of Dancing (J. W. VON GOETHE)      108

The Regency: 1800 to 1836
Introduction      113
Our Boasted National Dance (THOMAS WILSON)      120
Country Dance and Quadrille (THOMAS MOORE)      124
Mr. Bingley’s Success at the Ball (JANE AUSTEN)      128
The Usages of Society (CHARLES W. DAY)      129
Tom and Jerry Visit Almack’s Ballroom (PIERCE EGAN)      131
Waltzing (THOMAS WILSON)      133
The Waltz; An Apostrophic Hymn (GEORGE, LORD BYRON)      135
Mr. Tilney Likens Marriage to Country Dancing (JANE AUSTEN)      138
Bewitching Converse During the Dance (JANE AUSTEN)      140
Mr. Fezziwig’s Christmas Dance (CHARLES DICKENS)      142
Fanny Is the Guest of Honor (JANE AUSTEN)      145
And Then He Danced (GEORGE, LORD BYRON)      146

In the Reign of the Young Queen: 1837 to 1869
Introduction      149
A Sample Dance Card (BEADLE’S DIME GUIDE)      153
Modern Manners (L. DE G. BROOKES)      154
The Art of Dancing (THOMAS HILLGROVE)      156
Madame Bovary Learns to Waltz (GUSTAVE FLAUBERT)      159
And Then She Danced (W. M. PRAED)      161
New Impressions (LOUISA MAY ALCOTT)      162
Mr. Jorrocks in Paris (ROBERT SURTEES)      166
Description of a Ball at Paris (“L.”)      167
On Domestic Amusements and Social Duties (CATHERINE BEECHER)      169
An Hour in a Ball-Room (M. A. DENISON)      171
The Belle of the Ball (CAROLINE LEE HENTZ)      173
Concerning Round Dances (ALFRED L. CARROLL)      177
A Social Cancer! (W. C. WILKINSON)      179
Eustacia Goes A-Gypsying (THOMAS HARDY)      181
The Tranter’s Party (THOMAS HARDY)      185
They Dance More Wildly (THOMAS HARDY)      188
The Sanitary Ball (MARK TWAIN)      189
The Lobster Quadrille (LEWIS CARROLL)      192

The Gilded Age: 1870 to 1899
Introduction      195
Fashionable Dancing (MRS. JOHN SHERWOOD)      201
Round Dances (REV. CHARLES B. GOSS)      203
The Boston Dip (FRED. W. LORING)      205
Young Tom Decides the Redowa Is Worth Learning (LOUISA MAY ALCOTT)      207
Advice to a Leader of a “German” (TWO AMATEUR LEADERS)      209
The Band Played On (PALMER AND WARD)      212
The Fateful Meeting (COUNT LEO TOLSTOY)      214
A Southern Michigan Kadrille (DELLA LUTES)      221

The End of an Era: 1900 to 1918
Introduction      225
Dancing As an Art (V. AND I. CASTLE)      228
Basil Goes to a Tea Dance (F. SCOTT FITZGERALD)      232
The Man with Two Left Feet (P. G. WODEHOUSE)      233
Distinction Vanished with the Cotillion (EMILY POST)      238
The Sub-Deb’s Holaday Cotillion (MARY R. RINEHART)      240
Waltz Me Around Again, Willie (W. COBB)      245
An Old-Fashioned Country Dance (RALPH D. PAINE)      246
The Dance in the Heartlands (WILLA CATHER)      250

Index      255

Book Reviews & Awards

“fun and interesting…Thompson displays an impressive depth and breadth of knowledge about both literature and dance. It’s must reading for serious students of dance history, and a valuable companion to lovers of literature”—Green Man Review; “the well-chosen excerpts present a splendidly comprehensive picture of each era…it is convenient as well as enlightening to have this verbal pageant of bygone morals and manners in a single, readable volume…selections illustrate specific dances, social dance behaviors or the intimate reactions of participants”—JASNA News; “don’t skip the preface. It’s a well-written overview of the significance of social dance in England and America from 1400 to 1918 that prepares readers [to] better understand and appreciate the literary selections that follow…a valuable reference for readers interested in social history, dance history, and literature”—The Reviewers Consortium; “Thompson has collected 88 literary excerpts spanning 500 years…an enjoyable and informative book for lovers of both dance and literature”—Country Dance Song Society; “describes social dance through the literature of the eras…‘Contra’ dancers will find this book indispensable with its history of their craft and its discussions of still-current problems”—Society of Folk Dance Historians; “[a] very good source”—Ricardian Registry.