Momus Turn’d Fabulist; or, Vulcan’s Wedding was first performed on 3 December 1729 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It was described in the bills as ‘After the Manner of the Beggar’s Opera’ and the printed edition of the same year confirms that it was another ballad opera.
It continued to be revived until 1736-1737, although following the company’s move to its new Covent Garden Theatre during the 1732-1733 season it became an afterpiece. The Grand Dance of Momus was first advertised independently of the ballad opera as early as 17 December 1729. It lasted until 1740-1741, with a final performance in 1745-1746.
Momus is probably an unfamiliar figure to most theatregoers nowadays. In classical mythology, he was the personification of satire and mockery and appeared in Aesop’s Fables as a figure who finds fault with everything. By the 17th century he was seen as a buffoon and associated with the licence of carnival. All of these aspects are seen in his appearances in Thomas Carew’s 1634 masque Coelum Britannicum, as well as John Dryden’s The Secular Masque added to an adaptation of John Fletcher’s The Pilgrim in 1700.
In France, Momus featured in two ballets de cour – the Ballet des Bienvenus of 1655, in which he was described as ‘Dieu de la Bouffonneries’ and danced by ‘Baptiste’ (Jean-Baptiste Lully), and the Ballet de Psyché of 1656, as the ‘Bouffon des Dieux’ danced by ‘Molier’ (Louis de Mollier). In 1695, he was the central character in Desmarets’s opera Les Amours de Momus given at the Paris Opéra that year but not subsequently revived. The livret for this work does not name the dancers. Momus also had a significant part in Le Carnaval et la Folie, a comédie-ballet by Destouches, given at the French court in 1703 and then at the Paris Opéra in 1704. For its public performances, the leading dancers were Ballon and Mlle Subligny. It was revived several times, including 1719 when the leading dancers were David Dumoulin and Mlles Prévost and Guyot.
1719 was the year when Momus Fabuliste ou les Noces de Vulcain, a comedy by Louis Fuzelier and Marc-Antoine Legrand, was given at the Comédie Française. This was the source of the Momus Turn’d Fabulist performed in London some ten years later. The Introduction to the published text of the English ballad opera, in the form of a dialogue between a Player and a Gentleman, refers explicitly to the French play and praises the adaptation from a ‘French farce’ to an ‘English opera’. There is certainly more to be said about the figure of Momus and Momus Fabuliste, but my interest is (of course) in the dancing on the London stage. The frontispiece to the printed text of Momus Fabuliste provides a flavour of Momus as he appeared in the Paris farce.
The main difference between Momus Fabuliste and Momus Turn’d Fabulist is the addition to the latter of forty-two tunes for the sung ballads that punctuate the action and accompany the various fables that are told in the course of both the French play and its English adaptation. The story revolves around Momus’s mockery of each of the gods and goddesses in the classical pantheon, leading to the making of a match between Vulcan and Venus and culminating in the celebration of their wedding. Momus Turn’d Fabulist includes the stage direction ‘Here an Entertainment of Dancing in Honour of Vulcan’s Wedding’. This is the only reference to dancing in the piece and must have been what became the entr’acte Grand Dance of Momus. There is no music provided for this, as the adjacent ‘Air XLII. Parson upon Dorothy’ is almost certainly associated with the ‘Fable by way of Ballad’ that Momus calls on each deity in turn to perform. The stage direction is actually taken directly from Momus Fabuliste, which had music by Jean-Baptiste-Maurice Quinault. The score for the ‘Divertissement de la comédie de Momus fabuliste’ was published in 1719 but seems to survive in only a single copy not accessible digitally.
The immediate question is, did London’s Grand Dance of Momus use Quinault’s music? It is impossible to answer definitively, for there are no references to its music in the bills or elsewhere. The dancers in the Grand Dance of Momus are not listed in the bills until 1731, when it was given at a benefit performance for Mr and Mrs Laguerre. The leading couple was Nivelon and Mrs Laguerre, with five male dancers and four female dancers to support them. The inclusion of one more male than female dancer in these ensembles is a regular feature of group dances on the London stage. I have been tempted to assume that such casting points to a solo by the leading male dancer billed, who may or may not also dance with one of the women, but additional information (below) shows that this is not quite the case with the Grand Dance of Momus. Nivelon probably did dance a solo for he was billed alone during the 1729-1730 summer season in ‘The Celebrated Dance in Momus, to the Black Joke Tune’ at the Richmond Theatre. He probably choreographed, or arranged, the Grand Dance of Momus.
Could Nivelon have used some or all of Quinault’s music for Momus Fabuliste? Without access to the score it is difficult to follow up that possibility. We have few clues to Nivelon’s career before he arrived at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1723, when he was billed as ‘lately arriv’d from the Opera at Paris’ (in his case presumably the Opéra Comique). Research is needed to discover what he had been doing prior to his move to London and whether he may have been familiar with Momus Fabuliste and had access to its music. In any case, the Black Joke seems to have been a regular feature of the Grand Dance of Momus. A much later advertisement identifies the two leading dancers as a Sailor and a Lively Lass, with two Swains, two Nymphs and three ‘College Youths’ – the same number of male dancers as in the earlier bills but only two and not four female supporting dancers. (An internet search turns up the Ancient Society of College Youths, a change-ringing society established in the early 17th century, which may or may not be relevant to this choreography.) The Grand Dance of Momus must have been a divertissement, with a number of contrasting dances within it.
The various tunes in Momus Turn’d Fabuliste may have nothing to do with its dancing, but several of them point to other entr’acte dances and even two within pantomimes. There is the ‘Pierrot Tune’ and the ‘Highland Dance’, as well as the ‘Hay-makers Dance, in Faustus’ and the ‘Dance in Sorcerer’. The Black Joke (which does not feature in the printed ‘opera’) also has a wider musical history. I sometimes complain that we lack music for so many of the entr’acte dances on the London stage, but I obviously need to look more widely – there must have been a great deal of sharing between dances and musical entertainments more generally in the theatres.
In 1725-1726, the London theatre season for which I am looking at dance in detail, there were more than a dozen billings for a solo Scottish Dance by Mrs Bullock at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre, as well as a handful of performances of a Scottish duet by Newhouse and Mrs Ogden. By the mid-1720s, Scotch (or Scots, or Scottish) Dances were a regular feature in the entr’actes at London’s theatres.
The very first edition of Playford’s collection of country dances, The English Dancing-Master of 1651, includes a tune with the title ‘Scotch Cap or Edinburgh Castle’, while the third edition of 1657 added the ‘Highlander’s March’. These highlight a much longer history of Scotch dances than the one I will explore here.
Theatre in London had come back to life shortly after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, although records of performances over the next forty years are very incomplete. It is particularly difficult to trace the history of dancing in the playhouses over this period. One of the earliest Restoration plays to feature a Scots character was John Lacy’s Shakespeare adaptation The Taming of the Shrew; or, Sauny the Scot. Lacy took the role of Sauny, Petruchio’s Scots servant. Samuel Pepys was not impressed when he saw the comedy at the Bridges Street Theatre on 9 April 1667, calling it ‘but a mean play: and the best part, “Sawny”, done by Lacy, hath not half its life’. John Lacy was one of the greatest comic actors of the time, and a favourite with Pepys, but he played Sauny with a Scots dialect that the diarist could hardly understand. He also played on English ideas of the Scots as poverty-stricken, dirty and with repulsive habits, to the delight of audiences. As well as being an actor, Lacy danced (he had been trained by the dancing master John Ogilby) and Sauny the Scot ends with a dance, although we do not know whether Lacy used a Scots tune. Lacy was depicted in three of his comic roles by John Michael Wright in the late 1660s or early 1670s. There is ongoing debate about which roles are shown, but the one on the left could perhaps be Sauny.
The 1686 seventh edition of Playford’s The Dancing Master had a number of pages added at the end in 1687. These have among them ‘The Scotch-man’s Dance, in The Northern Lass’. Richard Brome’s play The Northern Lass, given in 1629, was revived soon after the Restoration and quickly found a place in the repertory. There are two dances in the 1663 edition of the play, one by ‘Masquers’ in act 2 and the other a ‘Round’ in act 3. Perhaps the ‘Scotchman’ was one of the masquers? Here is the music.
Most historical country dance enthusiasts will know the ‘Scotch Measure’ included in Thomas Bray’s 1699 collection Country Dances.
Bray was apparently a dancer and dancing master with the United Company during the 1690s, so this particular Scotch Dance could possibly have been performed on the London stage.
From the 1670s to the early 1700s, 25 musical suites for plays given in London’s theatres include ‘Scotch’ tunes, showing their popularity over this period. Information about these can be found in Music in the Restoration Theatre by Curtis Price (the full reference is given at the end of this post). I confess that I have not looked at the play texts to see if they mention ‘Scotch’ dances, but Price tells us that the ‘Scotts’ tune’ or ‘Scotch Measure’ was very popular in the 1690s.
This brings us to the 18th century. I compiled a list of the various Scotch Dances given in London’s theatres between 1700 and 1760 a while ago and it provides some interesting statistics. The earliest advertisement transcribed in The London Stage after 1700 is for a solo Scotch Dance performed by Margaret Bicknell at Drury Lane on 20 August 1702. She was actually from Edinburgh and this was probably not the first time she had danced this particular solo. Between 1701-1702 and 1705-1706 there were a handful of Scotch Dances given. This is unlikely to represent their true popularity for, like the Restoration period, performances during the first few years of the 18th century are far from fully recorded. No Scotch Dances were advertised in the entr’actes from 1706-1707 to 1715-1716 (a period during which newspaper advertisements first provide extensive performance details). I cannot explain this gap, although disruptions in London’s theatres during the first decade of the 18th century, the Hanoverian accession in 1714 and then the Jacobite rebellion in 1715 must all have something to do with their absence.
There were relatively few Scotch Dances each season from 1716-1717 to 1723-1724, then in 1724-1725 there were 20 performances with Scotch Dances. With a few exceptions, 16-18 Scotch Dances were given performances each season until 1731-1732 when there were 25. Then, in 1732-1733, there were 96 billings for entr’acte Scotch Dances! This total was not exceeded during the period I am exploring, although the figures did not drop away immediately – there were more than 70 performances of Scotch Dances in 1733-1734 and more than 60 in 1734-1735. The numbers decline to around 20 each season, more or less and with wide variations from season to season, by the late 1740s. It will come as no surprise to learn that no Scotch Dances were given in 1745-1746 and few or none over the following two seasons. Scotch Dances then recovered to around 20 each season until the early 1750s, but from 1753-1754 to 1759-1760 they all but disappeared from the entr’acte repertoire.
I am not going to try to look at all these ups and downs in detail, but I was curious to know what was going on in 1732-1733 to cause such a boom in Scotch Dances. In fact, there were five different Scotch Dances performed in the entr’actes at Drury Lane, Lincoln’s Inn Fields and the Goodman’s Fields Theatre that season. The first was the solo Scotch Dance given by Mrs Bullock at Goodman’s Fields on 7 October 1732. She had been advertised in a solo Scotch Dance since 1719-1720, which had been popular for much of the 1720s. In 1732-1733, she danced it more than 30 times – contributing significantly to the total of Scotch Dances that season. The second dance was the ‘new Scot’s Dance’, a duet performed by Haughton and Mrs Walter at Drury Lane on 14 October 1732 which may have been a revival of the duet given at this theatre in August 1732 by Holt and Mrs Walter. This Scotch Dance was performed seven times in 1732-1733 and then disappeared from the bills. The ‘New Scotch Dance’ given by Glover, Mrs Laguerre, Dupré, Mrs Pelling, Delagarde Jr and Mrs Ogden at Covent Garden on 16 January 1733 was the first group Scotch Dance to be performed in the entr’actes for nearly thirty years, but it proved so popular that there would be more such choreographies in future seasons. Advertisements in 1733-1734 identify Glover as the choreographer and it would remain in repertoire until 1740-1741. Glover’s Scotch Dance was performed 46 times in 1732-1733. So, Mrs Bullock’s long established solo and Glover’s new group dance were the choreographies that made 1732-1733 the season of Scotch Dances.
There were three more Scotch Dances in 1732-1733. The Scottish Dance performed by Young Weeks ‘Scholar to Dupre’ was given three times, at Covent Garden on 30 April 1733 (a benefit for Dupré and Miss La Tour) and then again at Goodman’s Fields on 11 and 14 May. Miss Wherrit performed her ‘new’ solo Scotch Dance once, at Goodman’s Fields on 10 May 1733 (a benefit for herself and two others). Finally, there was another Scotch Dance duet, by Davenport and Miss Baston at Covent Garden on 9 August 1733 – they gave this six times during the theatre’s summer season.
So far as I can tell, there were no particular social or political reasons for the emphasis on Scotch Dances during 1732-1733. There were, though, several possible reasons relating to events affecting London’s theatre world. The first (and possibly the most significant one) was the opening of the first Covent Garden Theatre on 7 December 1732. John Rich had long been a rival to Drury Lane from his theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, but the opening of a brand-new theatre on their doorstep took competition to new heights. At the same time, the Drury Lane company was beginning a particularly troubled period in its history. It had been run very successfully for around twenty years by a triumvirate of actor-managers – Barton Booth, Colley Cibber and Robert Wilks. Booth had been in ill-health for some time and in the summer of 1732 had sold out to the wealthy gentleman amateur John Highmore. Then, Wilks died in September 1732 and his management responsibilities passed to the painter John Ellys, also a theatrical amateur. Finally, in November 1732, Colley Cibber passed his management role to his son Theophilus – the only member of the new triumvirate with any knowledge and experience of the theatre. Tensions between the new managers soon mounted and the season ended in chaos with a rebellion by many of the actors, who the patentees locked out of the theatre on 26 May 1733. As if that was not enough, theatre rivalries had also been intensified by a third (unlicensed) playhouse – Goodman’s Fields had been offering performances in the Whitechapel area of London since 1729, but a new theatre opened there on 2 October 1732 under management determined to make the venture a success. Goodman’s Fields immediately began to emulate Covent Garden by including much entr’acte dancing in its bills. These events go some way towards explaining the large number of billings this season for Scotch Dances, which were obviously exploited for their popularity by both Covent Garden and Goodman’s Fields.
While Mrs Bullock’s solo may have drawn on ‘Scotch’ music familiar from earlier periods, there are few clues to the music that Glover used. My guess is that the success of his Scotch Dance had much to do with its music. There were certainly at least two collections of ‘Scots’ tunes published around this time, which suggest the popularity of ‘Scottish’ music in the early 1730s. One of them was William Thomson’s Orpheus Caledonius, first published in the mid-1720s and then given a second two-volume enlarged edition in 1733.
The dancers of these choreographies may well have worn a form of ‘Scotch’ dress. There are a couple of clues in a 1744 inventory of Covent Garden properties, where reference is made to ‘6 Scotch jacketts and caps 2 stuff plaid sashes and 6 bonnets to do. [ditto]’. ‘Stuff’ is a woollen, usually worsted, cloth. There is also reference to a ‘Highlander’s jacket’. There is no certainty that these references are to dancers’ costumes (Macbeth was given every season at Covent Garden) but other information makes it likely. References for the inventory are at the end of this post. There are many 18th-century portraits showing various versions of ‘Scotch’ dress, although I have found it difficult to discover anything from the early 1700s. These two images are actually of a Highland Gentleman and Lady, ascribed to 1745 and printed in A Collection of the Dresses of Different Nations: Antient and Modern published in two volumes over the period 1757-1772. They may, perhaps, provide clues to the costuming of Scotch Dances in London’s theatres before the Jacobite rebellion.
Apart from the mid-1740s, Scotch Dances were frequently billed in the entr’actes into the late 1750s and some new titles were introduced from the late 1740s. Among these were the Scotch Measure danced with a Highland Reel by Froment and Mlle de la Cointrie within a ‘New Scotch Dance’ given alongside The Beggar’s Opera at Covent Garden on 24 April 1749. Froment had first been billed in a solo Scotch Dance in London in 1742-1743, with no mention of these other dances. In the ensuing years he had spent time in Edinburgh where he may have extended his knowledge of Scottish dancing (my thanks to Alena Shmakova, who is researching dancing in Edinburgh and brought this to my attention). Froment apparently continued his London career until the late 1770s, although he seems not to have been billed in further Scotch Dances. There was also a Grand Scottish Ballet, first performed by Cooke and Miss Hillyard at Covent Garden on 31 January 1750. They were presumably accompanied by a group of supporting dancers, as indicated by advertisements in later seasons. This choreography continued in repertoire until 1752-1753, when it was given at least 24 performances, after which it disappeared from the bills.
I will look at Highland Dances in a separate post as, for the earlier period at least, they seem to be different to Scotch Dances.
During the final decades of the 18th century, ideas about Scotland and the Scots changed markedly and Scotch Dances on the London stage underwent a transformation. I hope to write a post about these at a later date.
Much of the data in this post has been gathered from:
The London Stage, 1660-1800. 5 volumes (Carbondale, Ill., 1960-1968)
A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers & Other Stage Personnel, 1660-1800. 16 vols (Carbondale, Ill., 1973-1993)
For country dance tunes in the editions of Playford, I turned to:
The Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford’s Dancing Master (1651-ca.1728), edited by Jeremy Barlow (London, 1985)
For musical suites associated with plays during the late 17th century, see:
Curtis Price, Music in the Restoration Theatre ([Ann Arbor, Mich.], 1979)
For the 1744 Covent Garden Inventory, see:
Philip H. Highfill Jr, ‘Rich’s 1744 Inventory of Covent Garden Properties’, Restoration and Eighteenth Century Theatre Research, 5.1 (1966)
This provides a complete transcript of the inventory.
Ana Martinez, ‘Scenographies behind the Scenes: Mapping, Classifying, and Interpreting John Rich’s 1744 Inventory of Covent Garden’, in “The Stage’s Glory” John Rich, 1692-1761, edited by Berta Joncus and Jeremy Barlow (Newark, NJ, 2011)
The original inventory is held in the British Library as Additional MS 12201.
The other duets given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields this season were:
French Sailor and his Wife
Shepherd and Shepherdess
Running Footman’s Dance
Burgomaster and his Frow
Spinning Wheel Dance
The last two duets were performed only during the summer season.
It is immediately apparent that Lincoln’s Inn Fields offered a wider range of entr’acte choreographies than Drury Lane in 1725-1726. This was related to the dancers employed there this season, as well as John Rich’s habitual use of dance as a weapon in his rivalry with the other patent theatre.
The French Peasant danced by Nivelon and Mrs Laguerre on 29 September 1725 was one of the perennially popular dances on the London stage. So far as I can tell, a French Peasant duet was first advertised at Drury Lane on 15 June 1704, when the dancers were Mr and Mrs Du Ruel. It would continue in the entr’acte repertoire until the early 1740s. Several Peasant or ‘Paysan’ dances were recorded in notation in the early 1700s, including this choreography by Guillaume-Louis Pecour published in the Nouveau recüeil de dance de bal et celle de ballet around 1713.
These dances may provide hints towards the French Peasant dances on the London stage.
The Passacaille was seldom advertised as a duet in London’s theatres and the two performances given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 13 October and 9 November 1725 by Lally and Mrs Wall seem to be the last to be billed before the 1770s. The only notated passacaille duet for a man and a woman, choreographed by Guillaume-Louis Pecour for Ballon and Mlle Subligny, was published in 1704 and thus does not necessarily provide an exemplar for a dance of the mid-1720s. I wrote about both solo and duet passacailles in my post The Passacaille back in 2017.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, ‘Sailor’ dances on the London stage go back to the 17th century and were a frequent feature in 18th-century entr’acte entertainments. A French Sailor duet was performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in the mid-1710s, but the French Sailor and his Wife performed there on 25 October 1725 by Francis and Marie Sallé seems to mark a new chapter in the stage life of the dance. I can certainly devote a post to the sailor dances in London’s theatres, so I won’t pursue the topic further here. It is just worth mentioning that a Matelot duet was introduced to the entr’actes at Drury Lane in 1726-1727, raising a question about the difference between it and the French Sailor dances.
I discussed Shepherd and Shepherdess dances in an earlier post, Season of 1725-1726: Entr’acte Dances at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, so I will move straight on to the Spanish Entry given as a duet by Lesac and Miss La Tour on 2 November 1725. I have written about ‘Spanish’ dances before – in posts entitled ‘Spanish’ Dances, Dancing ‘Spaniards’ and ‘Spanish’ Dancing and the Dance Treatises – but I haven’t taken an extended look at such dances on the London stage. I am not going to attempt that here, although it is certainly another topic worth exploring. There were Spanish Dances and Spanish Entries advertised in the entr’actes at London’s theatres from the first decade of the 18th century, which probably drew on similar choreographies from the Restoration period. The Spanish Entry had been advertised as a duet at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and had stayed in the repertoire for a few seasons. It had then disappeared, only to reappear in the mid-1720s with the duet danced by Lesac and Miss La Tour. The use of the word ‘Entry’ for this dance suggests (to me at least) that it was less likely to have been a version of the Folies d’Espagne than one of the other dance types made popular in the French comédies-ballets and opéra-ballets given in Paris. Here is the first plate from Pecour’s well-known ‘Entrée Espagnolle’ for Ballon and Mlle Subligny, which provides one example that may have been influential (it was transcribed by Kellom Tomlinson in his ‘WorkBook’ compiled during the first two decades of the 18th century).
‘Le Marrie’ danced by Francis and Marie Sallé at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 16 December 1725 must surely have been Pecour’s ball dance La Mariée, first published by Feuillet in his 1700 Recüeil de dances composées par Mr. Pecour. As I wrote in another post back in 2015, La Mariée on the London Stage, research by the American dance historian Rebecca Harris-Warrick has shown that this duet probably began as a stage dance in Paris and reached the London stage shortly after 1698. The Marie performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1717-1718 could have been La Mariée resurfacing in the entr’actes, although its performance by the Sallés seems to have given the duet a new lease of life with regular revivals at benefit performances. Here is the first plate from the 1700 collection.
Two Pierrots was also danced by the Sallés at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 16 December 1725. They seem to have introduced the male-female duet to London – previously there had been a few Pierrot solos and an all-male duet by Francis and Louis Nivelon in 1723-1724. The Sallés were answered at Drury Lane by Roger and Mrs Brett in La Pierette later that season. I should probably have counted Two Pierrots and La Pierette among the entr’acte dances shared between the two theatres, although the titles suggest that two might have been quite different thematically if not choreographically. Pierrot dances would last into the 1750s and beyond.
The Running Footman, danced by Nivelon and Mrs Laguerre on 10 March 1726, had been introduced to the London stage by them in 1723-1724. It was probably created by Nivelon and I looked at the duet in some detail in my post Dances on the London Stage: The Running Footman back in September.
The Fingalian Dance performed by Newhouse and Mrs Ogden on 11 April 1726 had first been danced by them in 1724-1725. They would continue to perform it regularly each season until 1733-1734. This entr’acte duet had apparently begun life as ‘A new Irish Dance in Fingalian Habits by Newhouse, Pelling, and Mrs Ogden’ at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1723-1724 but the trio format did not survive the season. Newhouse and Mrs Ogden were also billed more than a dozen times during 1724-1725 in an Irish Dance. I think that was probably the Fingalian Dance, which I am guessing was choreographed by Newhouse. There are a number of ‘Irish’ tunes in the various editions of Playford’s The Dancing Master, all considerably earlier than the duet by Newhouse and Mrs Ogden. They may hint at the music for the Fingalian Dance, although the dance itself seems to have been characterised by its costumes as much as the ‘Irishness’ of its music. Fingal is a county in Ireland in the Dublin region – the reference to ‘Fingalian Habits’ suggests costumes that are at least recognisably Irish. So far, I have not managed to find any clues as to what these ‘Habits’ may have been like. Fingalian Dances would survive in the London stage entr’acte repertoire until the 1770s.
The Burgomaster and his Frow, another entr’acte dance performed by Newhouse and Mrs Ogden on 20 April 1726, was one of the many ‘Dutch’ dances given in the entr’actes at London’s theatres. The duet seems to have been variously titled – as Dutch Boor in 1723-1724 and 1724-1725 and as Dutch Burgomaster and Wife in 1724-1725 – but it seems to have been distinct from the Dutch Skipper, which Newhouse was never billed as dancing. There is, of course, music for a ‘Dance for the Dutch man and his Wife’ in Thomas Bray’s 1699 collection Country Dances. This tune was used in Europe’s Revels for the Peace, the masque created to celebrate the peace of Ryswick that ended the Nine Years’ War in 1697.
Tollett’s Ground, danced by Newhouse and Mrs Laguerre on 30 April 1726 and revived during the Lincoln’s Inn Fields summer season by him and Mrs Ogden, took its title from its music. The piece is generally attributed to the Irish musician Thomas Tollett, who worked in London’s theatres during the 1690s and may have died in 1696. It appeared in several music collections around 1700 and was first billed at Drury Lane in 1701-1702, when it was performed by John Essex and Mrs Lucas. During the 1710s it was given several times by Margaret Bicknell and her sister Elizabeth Younger. The Tollett’s Ground duet survived into the early 1730s and was usually performed at benefits or during the summer season.
I mentioned the Chacone in my post The Most Popular Entr’acte Dances on the London Stage, 1700-1760 a couple of months ago. In 1725-1726, a Chacone duet was danced at Lincoln’s Inn Fields by Dupré and Mrs Wall on 30 April and then 23 May 1726, followed by Lally and Mrs Wall on 30 May. Some of the chaconnes given in London’s theatres were associated with Harlequin, but others (including this one) were evidently serious dances. We do have a local notated example of a chaconne for the stage which was published around this time and might shed light on some of those given in the entr’actes. Anthony L’Abbé choreographed the ‘Chacone of Galathee’ for Delagarde and Mrs Santlow (from 1719 Mrs Booth) perhaps around 1712, although it seems to have been notated some ten years later – around the time it was published by Le Roussau in A New Collection of Dances. As this plate reveals, it was a showpiece of virtuosity for these two dancers (I strongly suspect that Delagarde’s entre-chat à six should also have a tour-en-l’air, and I certainly think that Mrs Santlow was capable of adding an entre-chat à six to her tour).
The Chacone duets danced by Dupré and Lally with Mrs Wall in 1725-1726 may have been similar.
The Venetian Dance was given just once this season, on 9 May 1726 by Burny and Mrs Anderson ‘both Scholars to Essex’. At present, I can’t be sure whether ‘Essex’ is William Essex, who had made his debut at Drury Lane the previous season, or his father John, who had left the stage to pursue his career as a dancing master more than twenty years earlier. John Essex is perhaps the more likely candidate. It is tempting to assume that a Venetian Dance must be performed to a forlana, but a contemporary source suggests a quite different piece of music – the allemande used by Pecour for his duet of that title, published in Paris in 1702. I have puzzled over this musical choice, apparently made for a ‘Venetian Dance by Mr Shaw and Mrs Booth’ which was performed (but not mentioned in the bills) in 1724-1725. I can see that I should return to Venetian Dances in another post.
Dances associated with particular nations were decidedly popular at Lincoln’s Inn Fields this season. Another was the Swedish Dal Carl given by Pelling and Mrs Ogden on 17 June 1726 (the opening performance of the summer season). A ‘new Swedish Dance’ had entered the entr’acte repertoire at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1714-1715, when it was performed by Delagarde and Miss Russell (later Mrs Bullock and a leading dancer at that theatre). Thereafter the Swedish Dale Karl, as it was usually known, was performed most seasons into the 1730s. It may well have continued to use the music recorded in The Ladys Banquet 3d Book, a collection first published around 1720, although the earliest surviving edition has been dated around 1732. The ‘new Play House’ mentioned on the score is probably Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which opened in 1714. There are no solo Swedish Dances billed in London’s theatres, so is the ‘Sweedish Woman’s Dance’ actually part of the duet?
The last of the dances I listed at the beginning of this post was also performed only during the Lincoln’s Inn Fields summer season. Newhouse and Mrs Ogden performed the Spinning Wheel Dance on 21 June 1726. The duet had first been given in 1723-1724 at the same theatre and the bills indicate that it only ever received a handful of performances. I would characterise it as one of the novelty dances that turn up in the entr’actes from time to time, particularly during summer seasons.
My next post on the season of 1725-1726 will be concerned with the entr’acte solos given at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
The other entr’acte duets given at Drury Lane this season were the following:
Wooden Shoe Dance
As their titles suggest, they provided a variety of danced entertainment.
Hussars was danced by Thurmond Jr and Mrs Booth on 2 October 1725 and repeated several times during the season. The duet had originally been performed by John Shaw and Mrs Booth in 1719-1720 and she would go on to dance it with William Essex as well as John Thurmond Jr. It is easy to suggest that it was created by Shaw, but it is certainly possible that it originated with Mrs Booth. I discussed the duet and its costuming in The Incomparable Hester Santlow, including its music which (according to a contemporary source) was the forlana from La Sérénade vénitienne, added by Campra to the Ballet des Fragmens de Lully in 1703. This music suggests that Hussars may have been seen as a dance in masquerade.
John Shaw (who sadly died on 8 December 1725) had been one of London’s leading male dancers. He is one of the very few dancers of this period for whom we have a portrait, although only an engraving of the painting by John Ellys now survives.
The Muzette seems to have been introduced to the London stage by Rainton and Miss Robinson in 1724-1725, so their performances of the duet in 1725-1726 were a revival of the dance. As with Hussars, it was Miss Robinson who would go on to perform the Muzette with a series of partners, including William Essex and in 1729-1730 ‘Master Lally’ (probably Samuel Lally, a younger member of the Lally family). Muzette dances continued to be performed into the early 1740s, although it is likely that there were a number of different choreographies. I am reluctant to link this dance to the choreographies that were published in notation, the majority of which were created for the ballroom, although it certainly belongs to the genre of French-inspired pastoral dances that were popular in London’s theatres.
La Peirette or Pierette, given by Roger and Mrs Brett at Drury Lane on 21 March 1726 almost certainly has links to the French comedians who specialized in commedia dell’arte (the French influences on this Italian dramatic form are important to performances in London). This Pierrot or Pierette duet was almost certainly created by Roger – he had been described as the ‘French Pierrot’ in earlier bills – who continued to dance it with Mrs Brett and then other partners in subsequent seasons. Although the duet continued in the entr’acte repertoire after Roger’s death in 1731, it may or may not have drawn on his original choreography.
Whitson Holiday, danced at Drury Lane on 18 April 1726 by Boval and Miss Tenoe, was first performed at Drury Lane on 29 May 1721 by Boval and Mrs Younger. It was evidently by Boval, who danced it with a series of female partners until 1729-1730. The duet was created for a benefit performance and continued to be danced at benefits a few times each season throughout its stage life. The music may have come from Songs Compleat, Pleasant and Divertive, the new edition of Thomas Durfey’s Wit and Mirth; or, Pills to Purge Melancholy published in 1719 and then reissued under the original title 1719-1720. The collection includes the song tune ‘The Parson among the Pease’, which begins with the line ‘One long Whitson Holliday’.
The use of country dances towards the end of plays is quite well-known, but both solo and duet Country Dances were occasionally billed in the entr’actes – as at Drury Lane on 21 April 1726, when Rainton and Miss Robinson were billed together in a Country Dance at his shared benefit. I suspect that these dances should really be billed as Countryman and Countrywoman (as some were). None of the dances with these titles were performed regularly.
The Wooden Shoe Dance was far more popular as a solo than as a duet, and in the latter form was performed this season only at Drury Lane by Sandham’s children. I will take a closer look at these dances when I consider the entr’acte solos performed at the two patent theatres during 1725-1726.
The title Serious Dance was used regularly in the bills from the mid-1710s onwards. Advertisements rarely mentioned Serious Dances and Comic Dances together, although dancing ‘Serious and Comic’ was quite often billed thus. I don’t know why this should be, although the latter wording indicates that the two were seen as quite different. I haven’t yet written a post on comic dancing, although I have addressed Serious Dancing (back in 2017) and The Grand Ballet, Grand Dance and Serious Dance on the London Stage (in early 2018). The only Serious Dance billed in 1725-1726 was a duet by Michael Lally and Mrs Walter at Drury Lane on 18 May 1726, a benefit for Mrs Walter shared with Sandham’s children. It occurs to me that the title may have been used for another dance performed by them this season. Was it perhaps the Pastoral they gave at other performances in 1725-1726?
My next post will be about the other duets performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726.
In the entr’actes, duets were far more popular than group or solo dances during 1725-1726. At Drury Lane 13 were given, while at Lincoln’s Inn Fields there were 22. The following duet titles were advertised at both theatres:
I will begin with these shared dance titles and go on to the other duets at each of the theatres in later posts.
The Polonese was performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 1 October 1725 by Lally and Mrs Wall and then at Drury Lane on 25 November 1725 by Rainton and Miss Robinson. This duet had been advertised for the first time at Drury Lane in 1724-1725, where Rainton and Miss Robinson danced it on 18 March 1725 followed by Lally and Mrs Wall on 20 April. This duet would last for several seasons. The title must surely mean ‘Polonaise’ – perhaps prompted by the forthcoming marriage of the French King Louis XV to the Polish Princess Maria Leszcynska on 5 September 1725 (N.S.).
The Dutch Skipper was given on 21 April 1726 by Thurmond Junior and Miss Tenoe, for the shared benefit of Rainton. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields it was performed by Pelling and Mrs Ogden on 24 June. Although ‘Dutch’ dances can be traced back to the 17th century in London, the earliest known billing of the Dutch Skipper was 7 June 1704, when Philippe Du Ruel danced it with his wife at Drury Lane. The duet quickly entered the repertoire and, following the opening of the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre in 1714, was regularly performed in the entr’actes at both playhouses. It was usually a duet for a man and a woman, but was sometimes danced by two men or even two women. It was also occasionally danced as a solo – in 1725-1726 it was so performed at Drury Lane by Sandham (or perhaps his son). Music for the Dutch Skipper, sometimes called ‘Du Ruel’s Dutch Skipper’ survives in several sources, none of them earlier than the second decade of the 18th century. This version comes from the Lady’s Banquet, 3d Book, published around 1732 (although an earlier edition, which does not survive, was dated 1720):
Lambranzi depicts a Dutch sailor and his wife in part 2 of his Neue und curieuse theatrialisches Tantz-Schul, who might provide a clue to the costuming of the Dutch Skipper dances on the London stage.
Although the solo Dutch Skipper was usually performed by speciality dancers, the duet was often given by those who also performed a belle danse repertoire suggesting that it was not simply a comic-grotesque number.
A Pastoral duet was danced at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 29 September 1725 by Lally and Mrs Wall and on 5 January 1726 by Le Sac and Miss La Tour, who performed it several times before the end of the season. During the Lincoln’s Inn Fields summer season, the Pastoral was taken up by Burny and Mrs Anderson. At Drury Lane, a Pastoral duet was first given by Boval and Mrs Brett on 3 May 1726 and then taken up at later performances by Michael Lally and Mrs Walter. Were all these duets the same or different choreographies, or were they perhaps variations around a shared choreographic theme? The first Pastoral to be advertised on the London stage was a solo by Miss Schoolding at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1717-1718, while the duet was first given in a version danced by Delagarde’s two sons in 1718-1719. It is possible that, at Lincoln’s Inn Fields at least, the choreography for the 1725-1726 duets derived from the Pastoral performed by Glover and Mrs Wall in 1723-1724. Glover was also the lead dancer in a group Pastoral Dance given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1726-1727, so he may have been the choreographer of both versions. Without music, it is difficult to have much idea of what these dances were like – although we could, perhaps, look to Myrtillo for clues.
The Saraband and Minuet are well-known as dance types and at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields both were performed at benefit performances as duets. In 1725-1726 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Glover and Mrs Laguerre danced a ‘Saraband and Minuet’ together for the benefit she shared with her husband the actor-singer John Laguerre on 14 April 1726. At Drury Lane, Boval and Mrs Brett danced the same combination at her shared benefit on 6 May 1726. As a duet, the Saraband seems to have reached the entr’actes only in 1723-1724, although it had been danced as a solo from at least 1713-1714. Similarly, the solo entra’cte Minuet dates back to at least the first decade of the 18th century. It made its first entr’acte appearance as a duet with Glover and Mrs Laguerre in 1725-1726 – also the first time that a Saraband and Minuet were billed together. The Minuet was also given with other ‘Ball Dances’, although it was rarely performed in the entr’actes other than for benefits. I give more information about both dances in my earlier posts about the Saraband and the Minuet on the London stage.
The other duet performed at both playhouses was Peasants, which might perhaps be classified as the opposite to the Pastoral duet. ‘Peasant’ dances were very popular and I included them in my post The Most Popular Entr’acte Dances on the London Stage, 1700-1760. One of the issues in 1725-1726, as in other seasons, is whether the dances variously billed as French Peasants and Peasants are actually the same dance. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields, a Peasants duet was given by Nivelon and Mrs Bullock on 19 October 1725 when he had danced a French Peasant with Mrs Laguerre on 29 September. At Drury Lane, Sandham’s children danced Peasants on 25 May 1726 (there was no entra’cte French Peasants duet there that season). Peasants duets apparently entered the entr’acte repertoire a decade later than French Peasants, in the 1710s. The first such duet to be advertised was danced by Shaw and Mrs Younger at Drury Lane in 1718-1719. Again, without music it is difficult to know what such dances might have been like, although I suspect that they were similar in many respects to the French Peasant dances, for which both music and choreography may be found in French sources.
In my next post I will look at the other duets given at Drury Lane.
For a number of years, I have been researching dancing on the London stage between 1660 and 1760. There are several studies of theatrical dancing in the French ballets de cour and French operas of that period, but dancing in London has been largely ignored. This neglect is understandable, up to a point. In London’s theatres, dances were usually performed between the acts of plays, in the divertissements within semi-operas or, later, in the masques and pantomimes that followed the main tragedy or comedy of the evening. Other than their titles, and who danced them, we know little about them. If we are lucky, a tune with the same title as a dance may survive in a collection of country dances, a music tutor or elsewhere (although the tune may turn out to have little to do with the dance). Except in a handful of cases, no choreography survives. Despite all these difficulties, I just cannot rid myself of my fascination with this lost repertoire and its dancers.
Dancing on the London stage was much influenced by French belle danse. One area of interest, which might also be fruitful in research terms, lies in the various dance types known from the corpus of dances notated in the early 1700s. Some of these dances appear explicitly in the entr’actes and some do not. Among those that can be found are the Allemande, Chaconne, Folia (‘Folie d’Espagne’), Forlana (billed once only as a ‘Forlanta’), Hornpipe, Gigue (actually the ‘Jig’ which may, or may not, be a French Gigue), Loure (mainly in the form of the ‘Louvre’, i.e. the ball dance Aimable Vainqueur), Minuet, Musette, Passacaille, Rigaudon and Saraband (to which I have previously devoted a post). Entr’acte dances with these dance types in their titles were billed and it seems likely that many of them were what they claimed to be. Those not billed are the Bourrée, Canary, Courante, Gavotte and Passepied. They may well have been performed, but they are never mentioned among the advertisements for entr’acte dances. I cannot explain why some of these dances were not among those named in the bills (though some, like the Courante, may simply have gone out of fashion).
From time to time, I will take a closer look at some of the dance types that were performed on the London stage.
At the end of the New Collection of Forty-Four Cotillons, Gallini includes ‘Music for Six select Dances, Two of which may be used as Cotillons’. The tunes are individually titled:
Allemande (a cotillon, numbered 45)
Le Prince de Galles (a cotillon, numbered 46)
Le Charmant Vainqueur
La Fourlane Venitienne ou La Barcariuole
Menuet du Dauphin
Le Passe-pied de la Reine
In his Treatise upon Dancing of 1762, Gallini had listed the dances ‘most in request’, although he did not include the allemande. This dance, which had a long history, was enjoying a revival in a new and fashionable form alongside the cotillon. Gallini did list some titles which dated back to the early 1700s, alongside others which seem to be little more than generic dance types. Among the former are the Bretagne and La Mariée, while the latter include the Forlana and the Passepied. The Menuet du Dauphin is the title of a choreography by the famous French dancing master Marcel, published in notation in Paris in 1765, although Gallini supplies different music. In the late 1760s, other dancing masters advertised a similar repertoire. It is all but impossible to know what choreographies were actually danced. Were amateur dancers still expected to perform dances from the court of Louis XIV in London’s ballrooms? Were fashionable French ballroom duets performed in London as well as Paris?
I will return to dancing masters and their lessons. The survival of dances from an earlier era is a topic for exploration at a later date, as is the allemande.