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.
Following my recent detailed analysis of the 1725-1726 theatrical season on the London stage, I thought I should return to my A Year of Dance series and add 1726. (I wrote about 1725 quite some time ago). Politically, this seems to have been a quieter year than 1725.
In France in June, Louis XV appointed his old tutor André-Hercule de Fleury as his chief minister. Fleury was created a cardinal in September 1726. The previous spring, the poet and writer Voltaire had arrived in England for two years of exile from France following a second period of imprisonment in the Bastille. He quickly learned English, honing his language skills by regular visits to London’s theatres. During his stay he was to meet Alexander Pope, John Gay and Jonathan Swift, among others.
In England, 1726 was marked by the death of the architect and dramatist Sir John Vanbrugh on 26 March, followed by that of the scourge of London’s theatres Jeremy Collier on 26 April, whose A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage published in 1698 had attacked Vanbrugh among other leading playwrights. Towards the end of the year, George I’s former wife Sophia Dorothea of Celle died. Their marriage had been dissolved following her adultery in 1694 and she had been imprisoned in her native Celle for more than twenty years. 1726 also saw the publication of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (‘Lilliputians’ would in due course become a popular feature on the London stage), as well as the ‘rabbit’ hoax by Mary Toft which fascinated and bamboozled many over the autumn.
In the wider context for these posts, the most significant theatrical event of 1726 in London was the new pantomime at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Apollo and Daphne given on 14 January, which brought Francis and Marie Sallé back to the London stage after an absence of several years and reintroduced them to audiences as adult dancers. It answered Drury Lane’s 1725 Apollo and Daphne pantomime, which was revised and revived in reply. This small painting by the Italian artist Michele Rocca probably dates to the early 18th century.
There was also Italian opera at the King’s Theatre, with two new operas by Handel – Scipione on 12 March and Alessandro on 5 May. The Italian soprano Faustina Bordoni made her debut as Rossane in Alessandro, with Francesca Cuzzoni as Lisaura and Senesino in the title role.
In Paris, Destouches’s opéra-ballet Les Stratagèmes de l’Amour (composed to celebrate the marriage of Louis XV and Marie Leszczyńska the previous year) was given at the Paris Opéra on 28 March. The dancers included Françoise Prévost and David Dumoulin – she led the Troyennes in the first divertissement in Entrée I, while he led the Matelots in the second divertissement, and they danced together as Esclaves (with sixteen other dancers) in Entrée III. Rebel’s tragédie en musique Pyrame et Thisbé had its first performance on 17 October. David Dumoulin and Mlle Prévost also danced in this production, leading the Egyptiens (with Blondy) in act two and the Bergers and Bergères in act three.
No dances were published in notation this year. The last of the Paris collections had appeared in 1725, while in England the series of new dances ‘For the Year’ by Anthony L’Abbé had already ceased to be annual. It would resume in 1727 and continue, with occasional gaps, until 1733.
I have recently been working on Thomas Caverley’s Slow Minuet and I thought I would look more closely at the two different versions of this solo that survive in notation. One was published by Edmund Pemberton, who gives it the subtitle ‘A New Dance for a Girl’, while the other survives in a manuscript version by Kellom Tomlinson. They differ enough from one another to be thought of as two dances rather than two versions of the same dance. There is another solo minuet for a female dancer, Mr Isaac’s Minuet, which was published by Pemberton in 1711 and is clearly linked to both versions of the Slow Minuet. I will mention this third dance from time to time.
Mr. Caverley’s Slow Minuet ‘A New Dance for a Girl’ was among the series of notated ball dances published by Edmund Pemberton between 1715 and 1733. The notation is undated and has been ascribed to 1729, a date I accepted when I wrote about Pemberton in 1993 (references to the sources I have used are given at the end of the post). However, fresh examination of the dance notation suggests that it was probably notated and engraved much earlier. The title page (with its mention of ‘Mr. Firbank’ as the composer of the tune) was also used for the anonymous solo La Cybelline – another ‘New Dance for a Girl’ – but has clearly been altered for Caverley’s dance. La Cybelline was published in 1719, so the Slow Minuet might have appeared around the same time. However, there is another piece of evidence which might place the work of engraving the dance a few years earlier. The dance notation is densely laid out, mainly because Pemberton would have wanted to save on the cost of paper for printing by fitting it into four pages. The engraving is somewhat rough and ready, reminiscent of the first dances that Pemberton published independently after he stopped working for the music publisher John Walsh in 1715. Could the Slow Minuet have been the first dance notation that Pemberton produced himself and then re-issued with a new title page at a later date? Both Caverley and Isaac were keen proponents of the new art of dance notation, so Caverley could have favoured Pemberton with a dance just as Isaac had done a few years earlier. Here is the title page alongside the first plate of Pemberton’s version of Caverley’s Slow Minuet.
The manuscript version of the solo, titled ‘The Slow Minnitt: by Mr: Caverley:’ was transcribed by Kellom Tomlinson into his WorkBook, along with other notes and dances. The WorkBook was discovered in New Zealand and published in facsimile in 1992, edited by the dancer and dance historian Jennifer Shennan. Tomlinson was apprenticed to Thomas Caverley between 1707 and 1714 and would go on to publish several of his own dances in notation between 1715 and 1720. His version of the Slow Minuet is undated but probably belongs to the period of his apprenticeship – the WorkBook contains material which can be dated from 1708 to 1721. Tomlinson’s notation is actually more assured than Pemberton’s (he had fewer restrictions as to paper and gives a separate page to each section of the dance). His notational style differs from Pemberton’s (a topic to which I will return). Some of the differences between the two versions are discussed and analysed by Jennifer Shennan in her introduction to the facsimile. Here are the first two pages of Tomlinson’s notation.
The other dance I have mentioned is the Minuet by Mr Isaac, published in notation within Edmund Pemberton’s An Essay for the Further Improvement of Dancing in 1711. It follows Isaac’s Chacone and, in his Preface, Pemberton says that Isaac had ‘oblig’d’ him with ‘a single Dance’ suggesting that the two were meant to be performed together as one choreography. The same collection has Pecour’s solo forlana for a woman (titled a ‘Jigg’) and a solo version of Anthony L’Abbé’s ‘Passacaille’ originally choreographed as a duet for two professional female dancers to music from Lully’s opera Armide. Pemberton’s 1711 collection was published by John Walsh. Here are the first two plates of Isaac’s Minuet.
It is worth adding that Thomas Caverley and Mr Isaac were near contemporaries. Isaac (whose real name was Francis Thorpe, as I discovered some years ago when I was researching Jerome Francis Gahory) was perhaps born around 1650 and was buried early in 1721. Thomas Caverley’s birth date has been given variously as 1641, 1648 or 1651, although he may have been born as late as 1658 or 1659. He lived much longer than Isaac for he died in 1745. Isaac, of course, was a royal dancing master – described by John Essex in the ‘English’ Preface to his translation of Rameau, The Dancing-Master (1728), as ‘the prime Master in England for forty Years together’. Essex wrote of Caverley as ‘the first Master in teaching young Ladies to dance’, a reputation which explains the publication of his Slow Minuet.
The two versions of Caverley’s Slow Minuet each use different music. In Pemberton’s version the tune is attributed to the dancing master Charles Fairbank, whereas Tomlinson’s music is anonymous. The solos are different lengths too. Pemberton’s music has the time signature 3 and four AABB repeats (A=B=8). The dance notation has 6 beats to the bar, so each pas composé takes two musical bars in accordance with the usual convention for minuets. Tomlinson also writes his music with a time signature of 3 but his has five AABB repeats (A=B=8). His notation has three beats to each dance bar, although he writes some steps over two bars with liaison lines to make clear that they are single pas composés. Pemberton’s Slow Minuet has 128 bars of music, while Tomlinson’s has 160.
An analysis of both notations reveals that, although these closely related choreographies are minuets, much of their vocabulary consists in demi-coupés, coupés and pas de bourée. The pas de menuet and contretemps du menuet are used mainly in the third repeat of the AA and again in the fourth AA. Tomlinson uses these steps additionally in his fifth and final AA and final B section.
Both choreographies begin with a sequence of two demi-coupés forwards and two backwards, followed by a coupé – pas de bourée sequence repeated six times. This fills the first AA and, it seems, sets out Caverley’s intention of teaching the minuet not through the conventional step vocabulary of that dance but through its building blocks. He uses these to introduce the girl to the rhythmic variety possible within the steps of this formal dance, among other ideas, as well as to provide a technical foundation. This approach is evidenced elsewhere in both versions of the Slow Minuet. In the third plate of Pemberton’s notation the pas de menuet à trois mouvements with a demi-jeté on the final step is introduced, and in the fourth plate there are pas de menuet à deux mouvements which begin on both the right and the left foot. In his third AA, Tomlinson uses the pas de menuet à deux mouvements, but in his fourth and fifth AA sections he turns to the pas de menuet used by Isaac in his Minuet (in The Art of Dancing, Tomlinson calls this the ‘English Minuet Step’). This is, essentially, a fleuret followed by a jeté and can be seen in the plates from Isaac’s Minuet shown above. This hints at a link between the choreographies and, perhaps, the teaching of both Isaac and Caverley.
Another such hint is provided by a pas composé used in Pemberton’s version of the Slow Minuet. This takes two bars of music and all the steps are linked together by liaison lines. I find such compound steps difficult to break down into their component parts, but this one may be analysed as a variant on the pas de bourée, incorporating an emboîté and ending with a pas plié, followed by two coupés avec ouverture de jambe. A slightly different version of the step is found in Isaac’s Minuet, with jetés-chassés instead of the coupés. Here are the two steps in notation for comparison. First Pemberton’s, from his fourth plate – without being able to examine an original notation it is not possible to be certain, but the initial emboîté shows the foot position on the balls of the feet.
Next Isaac’s, from his third plate – the dots showing the emboîté on the balls of the feet are clear.
Both Pemberton and Tomlinson use a variety of figures, which are quite often not the same or at least are notated differently. The opening figures are actually the same in both versions, although Pemberton notates all the sideways steps around the right line of the dancer’s direction of travel towards the presence, while Tomlinson shows the sideways travel explicitly. In the figures for the third AA, Pemberton notates the dancer travelling a semi-circular path anti-clockwise followed by another clockwise, whereas Tomlinson takes his dancer clockwise in a quarter-circle followed by a tighter three-quarter circle in the same direction and then traces the same figure anti-clockwise. Both dances have figures that reflect some of those in Isaac’s Minuet, notably zig-zags on the diagonal and repeated tight circles. Although some of the figures contain echoes of those in the ballroom couple minuet, parallels are not obvious in either notation.
Both versions of the Slow Minuet are constructed around a series of variations. Some of these are 8 bars long and are danced twice, starting with the right foot and then the left, to match the repeated musical sections. There are also 4 bar sequences, which might or might not be repeated within a musical section. Two of Tomlinson’s plates are missing a couple of bars of dance notation, but the structure of the section and its predecessor (as well as Pemberton’s version) suggest what the missing steps might be. The second BB section (plate 4) appears to be without its final two dance bars.
One suggestion is that the coupé – demi-coupé steps that follow the two demi-coupés should take two bars of music each (rather than one bar as notated). I suggest instead that they do take one bar each and that they should be repeated after the last two demi-coupés on the plate, which gives two identical sequences to match the musical repeat.
The other omission comes in the last B of the third BB section (plate 6).
This is more difficult to guess, but I suggest that two contretemps should be added, one sideways to the left after the fourth step (another contretemps) and the other sideways to the right at the end of the sequence. This would then run as a repeated 4-bar sequence of contretemps – coupé – pas de bourée – contretemps.
The different notational styles of Pemberton and Tomlinson are almost worth a post of their own and are evident from the very beginning of the two dances with the opening demi-coupés. Pemberton’s version is on the left and Tomlinson’s on the right.
Or, do these represent different steps? Tomlinson’s demi-coupé finishes on the first beat, followed by a two-beat rest, while Pemberton apparently gives the dancer two beats to bring the free foot into first position – making this a version of a coupé sans poser rather than a demi-coupé. Later on the same plate, Pemberton notates demi-coupés more conventionally, suggesting that the opening steps are not demi-coupés.
I have discussed these two notations in some detail because I believe that such close reading can help us get a better idea of how these notated dances were actually performed. Caverley’s Slow Minuet is one of very few choreographies that survive in more than one version and there is far more to say than I have set down here. I think that the dance was integral to his teaching of young ladies and that it was intended as a display piece for performance at formal balls held by the dancing master at his premises and elsewhere. It makes formidable demands on the young dancer’s mastery of aplomb – not merely her placement but also her address. She has to be secure in balancing on one foot and moving rhythmically (and sometimes quite slowly) from one foot to another. She also has to maintain her erect and easy carriage as she moves through her steps and figures. There are continuous rhythmic challenges as well as demands on her memory as she dances a series of variations no two of which are the same.
If I were called upon to devise a syllabus for teaching the minuet, I would begin with Thomas Caverley’s Slow Minuet. If aspirant historical dancers can perform this exacting solo (in either version) successfully, the ballroom minuet would surely hold no terrors for them.
This image from Kellom Tomlinson’s The Art of Dancing is well known. Does it suggest that he continued to adapt and teach a Slow Minuet to his young female pupils?
Thomas Caverley. Mr. Caverley’s Slow Minuet. A New Dance for a Girl. The Tune Composed by Mr. Firbank. Writt by Mr. Pemberton. [London, c1720?]
For the 1729 dating see Little and Marsh, La Danse Noble, [c1729]-Mnt
An Essay for the Further Improvement of Dancing; Being a Collection of Figure Dances, of Several Numbers, Compos’d by the Most Eminent Masters; Describ’d in Characters … by E. Pemberton (London, 1711)
Kellom Tomlinson. A WorkBook by Kellom Tomlinson. Commonplace Book of an Eighteenth-Century English Dancing-Master, a Facsimile Edition, edited by Jennifer Shennan. (Stuyvesant, NY, 1992)
Although I mentioned the Little Theatre in the Haymarket in my first post on the 1725-1726 season and occasionally referred to it subsequently, I didn’t really include it in my survey of dancing in London’s theatres.
The Little Theatre was built late in 1720 on a site immediately beside where the Theatre Royal, Haymarket now stands. So far as we know, it was unlicensed, although this did not prevent it from offering short seasons of drama and other entertainments by foreign and amateur companies of players. In three of the five seasons between its opening and the 1725-1726 season, the Little Theatre provided a venue for companies of French comedians who offered an extensive repertoire of commedia dell’arte pieces alongside comedies by Molière and, in 1721-1722, tragedies by Corneille and Racine. In the first season of 1721-1722, the company included Francisque Moylin as Arlequin and Monsieur Roger as Pierrot. Roger returned to the Little Theatre for the 1724-1725 season and in 1725-1726 he joined the Drury Lane company as a dancer and choreographer. Dancing was offered each season at the Little Theatre, although the proportion of performances with entr’acte dancing ranged between 85% and only 24%. The concept of ‘entr’acte dancing’ does not really fit with the repertoire presented by these French companies, so the statistics may not be as significant as they appear.
Usually, the French companies appeared from December to March but in 1725-1726 they played only from March until May 1726. Their repertoire was entirely pieces from the commedia dell’arte, apart from Molière’s Le mariage forcé (which seems to have been a favourite with these troupes). Sixteen of the twenty-three performances were billed with dancing and the bills name eleven dancers (7 men and 4 women). Among the men were Poitier and Lalauze, the former would become a leading dancer in London in the years to come. There is some doubt about the identity of the Lalauze who danced in London from the 1730s. Between them, these dancers gave thirteen entr’acte dances – 7 group dances, 1 trio, 3 duets and 2 solos. Choreographies for commedia dell’arte characters predominate, closely followed by those for other characters, not least Peasants. Among the other dances was Le Cotillon, given at Poitier’s benefit on 9 May 1726 by twelve dancers . He may well have been the choreographer.
The Little Theatre in the Haymarket in the early 1720s was the place where the Paris forains met London audiences and influenced London’s dancers and theatre managers. They, and their repertoire, await the detailed research that will uncover their place within the eco-system of the 18th-century London stage. These paintings by Watteau evoke their many-faceted performances.
Since October 2020, I have written more than 15,600 words in a total of twelve posts devoted to dancing in London’s theatres during the season of 1725-1726. This survey covered the capital’s four theatres, who gave nearly 460 performances between them. No dancing was advertised at the King’s Theatre, while both Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields billed entr’acte dancing at about half of their performances. Drury Lane offered afterpieces with dancing about 25% of the time and Lincoln’s Inn Fields did the same at nearly 45% of its performances. There was little overlap between entr’acte dancing and afterpieces – bills at Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields generally included either one or the other, but rarely both – so at least 70% of that season’s bills (other than at the King’s Theatre) must have had some sort of dancing. That amounts to more than 330 performances.
So much dancing called for a group of specialist dancers at London’s two theatres royal. Drury Lane had thirteen dancers (seven men and six women), while Lincoln’s Inn Fields had sixteen (nine men and seven women). Among the women, several were also actresses (Drury Lane’s leading dancer, Hester Booth, was also one of the company’s leading actresses). At both playhouses, these dancers formed a company within the theatre company which brought together performers with different backgrounds as well as of various ages and experience. Several seem to have had quite extensive training in the French serious style (several more did not) and some had skills in speciality dance techniques. All the dancers, in both companies, seem to have been expected to dance in a range of styles and genres. Far more research is needed into the careers and repertoires of both leading and supporting dancers at this period to help us to understand how dancers were recruited and deployed. Such knowledge is closely linked to any attempt to analyse the repertory of dances at the two theatres.
This season, as in many others during the late 17th and 18th centuries, there were a number of French dancers on the London stage. Some, like Marie Sallé at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, were ‘guest artists’ while others, like her brother Francis and Monsieur Roger at Drury Lane, became members of the theatre’s dance company. Attention has been focussed on visitors from the Paris Opéra, but dancers from the Opéra Comique and the Paris fairs (the forains) were equally if not more influential. ‘French’ dance on the London stage is another topic that awaits detailed research and analysis.
As explained in my earlier pieces, 28 entr’acte dances were given at Drury Lane and 43 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The majority of these were duets. There seem to have been around eight choreographies which (on the evidence of their titles) were performed at both playhouses. The lack of music as well as other sources makes it difficult to distinguish between dances with the same, similar or otherwise related titles. A study over a longer period than a single season might help us to resolve some of these queries, as well as providing insights into the entr’acte dance repertoire at each of the two patent theatres.
Even this one season of 1725-1726 gives us some clues about the popularity of individual dances. For example, many of the duets given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields were, or would become, staples of the repertoire with stage lives extending over many seasons. The same was true at Drury Lane, although to a lesser extent. It is difficult to assign many of these dances to a single, specific genre, although the editors of The London Stage made an attempt at a list of categories (Introduction to Part Two, pp. cxxxiii – cxxxv) and so did I in chapter three of my PhD thesis ‘Art and Nature Join’d: Hester Santlow and the Development of Dancing on the London Stage, 1700-1737’ (2000). I won’t set out details of these categorisations here, although I make some use of them in what follows.
At Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726, the most popular dances fall into the ‘National’ genre – French, Dutch, Irish and Spanish foremost among them. Many of these dances overlap with the ‘Character’ genre, dances performed by particular character types of which the most popular were Peasants. The ‘National’ dances were followed quite closely by choregraphies titled according to their dance type – Passacaille, Chacone, Saraband, Minuet, and so on. There were, relatively speaking, few dances linked to commedia dell’arte characters, who were being steadily absorbed into the pantomime afterpieces, and not as many ‘Pastoral’ dances as might be expected although the longevity of group dances like Myrtillo and Le Badinage Champetre (which was new in 1725-1726) suggest that over time the hierarchy of popular dances might look different. There is also the question of the number of performances enjoyed by each entr’acte dance, which might change the pecking order. One factor, which needs detailed research, is the influence of the dancers themselves (more specifically the dancer-choreographers) over their own and their theatre’s repertoire. And, there were the theatre managers who had the final say on each evening’s bill. John Rich at Lincoln’s Inn Fields is known to have favoured dance, while at Drury Lane Colley Cibber, Robert Wilks and Barton Booth thought it detracted from the serious drama.
All but one of the afterpieces with dancing given at the two theatres royal this season were pantomimes, still a new and emerging genre. These brought together comic and serious dancing, by commedia dell’arte characters and figures from classical mythology, in productions that made full use of scenes, machines, tricks and transformations to entertain and amaze audiences. In 1725-1726, Drury Lane revived three pantomimes that had been successful in earlier seasons, notably Harlequin Doctor Faustus, while Lincoln’s Inn Fields revived five (including The Necromancer) and put on one new production. Drury Lane used dancers for the serious plots in its pantomimes, while Lincoln’s Inn Fields preferred singers. The Lincoln’s Inn Fields Apollo and Daphne was an exception to this rule, since it responded to the Drury Lane pantomime of the same name by casting Francis and Marie Sallé in the title roles. Both versions of Apollo and Daphne seem to have had affinities with John Weaver’s earlier dramatic entertainments of dancing – a link that remains largely unexplored, although the lack of detailed evidence about these pantomimes makes this difficult.
How much time was devoted to dancing each evening? Entr’acte dances must have varied in length, but one or two minutes is a reasonable average for solos and duets while group dances might take five or six minutes (or longer in those cases where there was a narrative thread to the choreography). So, the entr’acte dances might take up ten to fifteen minutes in an evening, more or less. Pantomimes are thought to have lasted around 40 minutes altogether, with varying amounts of comic and serious dancing depending on the production. Around fifteen to twenty minutes of actual dancing might be a reasonable guess. This is another area that needs research and analysis.
The 1725-1726 season fell within a pivotal period for dancing on the London stage. Pantomimes had just begun their long reign, dancers from France were bringing new choreographies that would be influential as the dancing in London’s theatres changed. Throughout the 18th century dancing was an integral and far from negligible part of most performances in London’s principal theatres, yet, in the absence of surviving choreographies and even their music, it remains intangible and unintelligible to all but those dance historians specialising in the period. I hope that this will change as more research is done.
I have still to look at the dancing at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket, which I will do in a separate piece by way of an epilogue to this lengthy investigation.
There were seven afterpieces with dancing at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726. One was a masque, while the rest were the pantomimes listed below.
Jupiter and Europa
Harlequin a Sorcerer
Apollo and Daphne
The Cheats; or, The Tavern Bilkers
The Jealous Doctor
Only Apollo and Daphne was new. The list shows clearly how important pantomimes were to John Rich and his theatre company.
The masque was St. Ceciliae; or, The Union of the Three Sister Arts, which had first been performed in 1723-1724 and was briefly revived in 1724-1725 and 1725-1726. When it was given on 22 November 1725 (St. Cecilia’s day) it was advertised with ‘Proper Dances’ performed by three couples.
Jupiter and Europa; or, The Intrigues of Harlequin was given on 21 October 1725 with ‘Lun’ (John Rich) as Jupiter (Harlequin) and Mrs Wall as Europa and performed eight times in all during the season. The pantomime had first been performed in 1722-1723, when it had been billed as a ‘new Dramatic Entertainment of Dancing in Burlesque Characters’. It lasted in the repertoire in its original form until 1727-1728 and was then revived in 1735-1736 within a new pantomime, The Royal Chace; or, Merlin’s Cave: With Jupiter and Europa. Like many of the pantomimes of this period, it is worth a post of its own. The abduction of Europa by Jupiter in the form of a bull was a favourite theme of artists of the period. This French painting by Pierre Gobert dates to the 1710s.
The Necromancer; or, Harlequin Doctor Faustus was given on 3 November 1725 with Lun as Faustus. This pantomime had been John Rich’s answer to John Thurmond Junior’s Harlequin Doctor Faustus in 1723-1724. It proved to be far more popular than its rival and would be regularly revived into the 1740s. The serious parts of Rich’s pantomimes used singers, rather than dancers as at Drury Lane, so Rich’s practice was to publish libretti for the ‘Vocal Parts’ with brief references to the action of the comic characters. The competition between the two Faustus pantomimes and the craze for these afterpieces which ensued meant that there were two scenarios printed for the Lincoln’s Inn Fields version. These provide details of the comic plot. The bills highlight the commedia dell’arte characters who appear in the final scene, performed by the company’s leading dancers – Harlequin Man and Woman, Pierrot Man and Woman, Mezzetin Man and Woman and Scaramouch Man and Woman. The Necromancer also featured Francis Nivelon as Punch. This particular pantomime has attracted much scholarly attention, including analyses of the surviving music, and I will look at it more closely in a separate post. One drawing survives which is generally agreed to show the singer Richard Leveridge as an Infernal Spirit with John Rich as Faustus in scene one.
Harlequin a Sorcerer: With the Loves of Pluto and Proserpine, given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 21 January 1725, was Rich’s next new pantomime after The Necromancer. It received nearly 30 performances in its first season and was revived on 13 November 1725 for another ten. In 1725-1726, it was overshadowed by the popularity of that season’s new pantomime Apollo and Daphne. Rich, as Lun, took the title role in Harlequin a Sorcerer, while Pluto and Proserpine were played by singers. The pantomime’s subtitle refers to the pantomime that Rich had wanted to produce (and would indeed put on the following season). The libretto that was published to accompany performances records a few details of the scenic tricks and transformations in the piece, which I will also look at separately. Harlequin a Sorcerer lasted until the early 1730s and was revived at Covent Garden in the 1750s.
The 1725-1726 season’s new pantomime, Apollo and Daphne; or, The Burgomaster Tricked, was first given on 14 January 1726 with Francis and Marie Sallé in the title roles and Francis Nivelon as the Burgomaster. It had 45 performances before the end of the season and would be regularly revived into the 1750s, making it one of Rich’s most popular pantomime afterpieces. Apollo and Daphne was unusual among the Lincoln’s Inn Fields pantomimes for using dancers to play the principal characters in the serious plot – Rich was, of course, replying to Thurmond Junior and Mrs Booth at Drury Lane. Only the words for the ‘Vocal Parts’ were published, with little beyond the descriptions of the various scenes to hint at the dance and mime performed by the Sallés. There is no mention of the comic scenes with the Burgomaster or the various commedia dell’arte characters. Rich went one better than Drury Lane with his concluding entertainment to Apollo and Daphne, in which Francis and Marie Sallé reappeared as Zephyrus and Flora. Recent research suggests that this was taken from Aubert’s opera La Reine des Péris given at the Paris Opéra in 1725. Again, I will have to devote a separate post to this pantomime. The Triumph of Flora, like Zephyrus and Flora, was a favourite theme for artists. This version by Poussin is much earlier, although the artist was still greatly admired in the 18th century.
The last two pantomimes in repertoire at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726 were given during the summer season. The Cheats; or, The Tavern Bilkers was revived on 1 July 1726 for the first of five performances. Over the years casts were rarely listed for this pantomime, and this summer’s advertisements were no exception. The Cheats had begun life in 1716-1717 and was undoubtedly intended by Rich as a hit at John Weaver, whose danced afterpieces were popular at Drury Lane that season (Weaver’s first piece for the stage had been titled The Tavern Bilkers). On the occasions when the characters in The Cheats were named in the bills they were revealed as drawn from the commedia dell’arte – the piece was billed as an ‘Italian Night Scene’ at its first performance. The Cheats was revived into the early 1730s.
The Jealous Doctor; or, The Intriguing Dame, given on 19 July 1726 and then for another three performances, also dated back to 1716-1717. It had replied to the play by John Gay, Alexander Pope and John Arbuthnot Three Hours after Marriage given at Drury Lane that same season. The play lasted for only a few performances, but the pantomime was revived around half-a-dozen times each season until 1725-1726. Its relegation to the 1726 summer season marked the end of its stage life.
I am going to round up this lengthy exploration of dancing on the London stage during the 1725-1726 season in my next post by considering what all these details might tell us about dancing at the two patent theatres and stage dancing in London more generally.
There were three afterpieces with dancing at Drury Lane during the 1725-1726 season. All were pantomimes.
The Escapes of Harlequin
Harlequin Doctor Faustus
Apollo and Daphne
All had been created by John Thurmond Junior and none were new this season. The second two are worth posts of their own and I will write these in due course.
The Escapes of Harlequin was given on 19 October 1725. The cast listed in the bills consisted entirely of commedia dell’arte characters – Roger and Mrs Booth were Harlequins, Thurmond and Boval together with Mrs Brett and Miss Lindar were Punches, Bridgwater and Mrs Willis (both actors rather than dancers) were the Doctor and his Wife, while Rainton danced Pierrot and Miss Tenoe Columbine. The pantomime had first been given, at Drury Lane, on 10 January 1722 and had been moderately successful in subsequent seasons, although it was performed only twice in 1725-1726 and would be revived only once more, in 1727-1728. No scenario was published and no music is known to survive (the composer is never mentioned in the bills). The afterpiece is ascribed to John Thurmond Junior by John Weaver, who included it in his ‘List of the Modern Entertainments that have been Exhibited on the English Stage; Either in Imitation of the Ancient Pantomimes, or after the Manner of the Modern Italians’ within his The History of the Mimes and Pantomimes published in 1728. Weaver’s lengthy title provides a summary of the influences that lay behind the new pantomimes. The Escapes of Harlequin was initially described in the bills as ‘A new Dramatick Entertainment of Dancing in Grotesque Characters’ linking it to the ‘Modern Italians’.
The pairs of characters suggest a series of duets, while the separate characters of Pierrot and Columbine perhaps hint at a plot which involves them, although it is impossible to guess at the action of the afterpiece. Thurmond Junior may have drawn on one or more of the plays (many of which were commedia dell’arte pieces) performed by a company of French comedians at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket during 1720-1721. I did wonder whether he might have been using existing entr’acte dances, but the evidence points another way – a Harlequin duet later performed in the entr’actes which might have originated in The Escapes of Harlequin. We know little, if anything about the dancing in Thurmond Jr’s pantomime but, since it had a cast of characters entirely from the commedia dell’arte performed by leading dancers at Drury Lane, might this drawing by Claude Gillot evoke its style?
Harlequin Doctor Faustus, given on 9 November 1725, was the pantomime that had started a craze for the genre when it was first performed at Drury Lane on 26 November 1723. John Rich had swiftly responded at Lincoln’s Inn Fields with the even more successful pantomime The Necromancer; or, Harlequin Doctor Faustus (which I will discuss in my next post) and both productions were integral to the repertoires of the two theatres for many seasons. At least three scenarios were published for Harlequin Doctor Faustus, which differ in some details, so we have a good idea of its action. Little if any of the music survives. The pantomime is, of course, based on the legend of Doctor Faustus and his pact with the Devil, told through the distorting lens of the commedia dell’arte. Thurmond Junior is identified as the author of the piece on the title pages of the scenarios. At the first performances, he played Mephistophilus with John Shaw as Faustus. In 1725-1726, no cast was listed until 3 June 1726 when Roger was Harlequin / Faustus and either Rainton or Haughton (both young dancers) performed Mephistophilus.
An important feature of this particular pantomime was the ‘grand Masque of the Heathen Deities’ with which it ended. This was an extended divertissement of serious dancing, in complete contrast to the grotesque commedia dell’arte characters who appeared in the main part of the afterpiece. The transition from pantomime to divertissement is described in the scenario, Harlequin Doctor Faustus: with the Masque of the Deities (1724). Time and Death enter the Doctor’s study and sing, in turn, to warn Faustus his time is up.
‘When the Songs are ended, it Thunders and Lightens; two Fiends enter and seize the Doctor, and are sinking with him headlong thro’ Flames, other Devils run in and tear him piece-meal, some fly away with the Limbs, and others sink. Time and Death go out.
The Music changes, and the Scene draws, and discovers a Poetical Heaven with the Gods and Goddesses rang’d in order on both sides the Stage, who express their joy for the Enchanter’s Death, (who was supposed to have power over the Sun, the Moon, and the Seasons of the Year.)’
The ‘Gods and Goddesses’ are the dancers in the masque. The excerpt above from the printed text shows how elaborate the staging was, with its tricks, transformations and sophisticated scenery. Sadly, there is no visual record at all of Harlequin Doctor Faustus but the ‘assembly of the gods’ was a favourite topic for ceiling paintings, including this one by William Kent which dates to around 1720.
The last of Thurmond Junior’s pantomimes to be given in 1725-1726 was his most recent, Apollo and Daphne; or, Harlequin’s Metamorphoses on 11 February 1726. Thurmond Junior and Mrs Booth danced the title roles, with Theophilus Cibber as Harlequin. It had first been given as Apollo and Daphne; or, Harlequin Mercury at Drury Lane on 20 February 1725 with the same leading dancers. John Rich had had to wait nearly a year before he could reply from Lincoln’s Inn Fields with Apollo and Daphne; or, The Burgomaster Tricked, in which the title roles were danced by Francis and Marie Sallé with Francis Nivelon as the Burgomaster. Two scenarios were published for the Drury Lane pantomime, which tell us that it began and ended with episodes from Apollo’s fruitless pursuit of Daphne, separated by a complete comic plot in four scenes, and had a concluding pastoral divertissement. In 1724-1725, Thurmond Junior and Mrs Booth were a Sylvan and a Nymph, while in 1725-1726 the divertissement had become ‘a Rural Masque: Les Bois d’Amourette’ with Mrs Booth again as a Nymph and both Thurmond Junior and Roger as two Rival Swains.
It is worth noting that, for its first performance in 1724-1725, Apollo and Daphne is billed as ‘A New Dramatick Entertainment of Dancing’, linking it to John Weaver’s ballets of a few years before. In 1725-1726, Thurmond Junior had obviously revised his pantomime in answer to Rich’s version and it received more than 25 performances that season (more than in 1724-1725), although it would remain in the Drury Lane repertoire only until 1727-1728. The music for Thurmond Junior’s Apollo and Daphne was by Richard Jones and Henry Carey, but no score survives. We have little idea of the visual effect of the production, although the scenarios record some of the scenic and special effects in both the serious and the comic parts of the pantomime. Apollo’s pursuit of Daphne and her transformation into a laurel tree when he catches her, were favoured topics for artists of the period and both moments were depicted in the pantomime. This version, by Giambatista Tiepolo, is nearly thirty years later, but it shows Daphne beginning her transformation beside her father the river god Peneus as Apollo catches up with her too late.
In my next post, I will turn to the Lincoln’s Inn Fields afterpieces with dancing.
Francis Peacock published Sketches relative to the history and theory, but more especially to the practice of dancing in 1805 in Aberdeen, the city where he had been dancing master since 1747. His treatise pursues themes familiar from many earlier such works, as his contents pages show.
Peacock’s book is best known for Sketch V, with its ‘Observations on the Scotch Reel’ along with a ‘Description of the Fundamental Steps’ of that dance. He provides the only known account of this vocabulary, although there is much discussion among today’s teachers of historical dance as to how ‘Scotch’ his steps may have been. Even experts in Scotland’s traditional dancing suspect the influence of ‘French’ dancing in what Peacock has to say.
I am not going to pursue that question, but I am going to look at what Peacock tells us about his own early training to see if that might contribute any useful information relating to his later writing. He provides some helpful clues in the ‘Advertisement’ to his Sketches.
Peacock tells us that he learnt his craft from three of London’s leading dancing masters – George Desnoyer, Leach Glover and Michael Lally, all of whom were also leading dancers in London’s theatres. At an informed guess, he studied with them between the late 1730s and early 1740s. It seems most likely that he had private tuition. He apparently did not follow any form of apprenticeship, which would have bound him to one of these dancing masters for several years and not allowed him to take lessons from all of them. What might they have taught him above and beyond what we know from other dance manuals like Rameau’s Le Maître à danser?
George Desnoyer (c1700-1764?) was possibly born in Hanover, since he was the son of the electoral court’s dancing master (who was probably French and perhaps danced at the Paris Opéra around 1690). Desnoyer is first recorded when he came to dance in London in 1721. L’Abbé’s ‘Spanish Entree’, ‘Entrée’ and ‘Türkish Dance’ created for him, and published in notation around 1725, give us an idea of the young Desnoyer’s virtuosity. In 1722, he returned to Hanover to take up the post of dancing master to Prince Frederick, son of George Prince of Wales, which he held until the Prince was called to London by his father, then George II, in 1728. Desnoyer was not formally dismissed from his post as court dancing master in Hanover until 1731, but by then he was already employed as ‘first Dancer to the King of Poland’ – as he was described in the bills when he returned to London that year. He danced at Drury Lane most seasons from 1731-1732 to 1739-1740 and then at Covent Garden from 1740-1741 to 1741-1742, his final seasons on the stage. On his return to London in 1731, Desnoyer had resumed his relationship with Prince Frederick (the two seem to have been close friends) and he would be dancing master to the Prince, his wife Princess Augusta and their children (including the future George III) until his death.
Leach Glover (1697-1763) was born in London, but not to a theatrical family. He may have begun his career as an actor, but he was first advertised as a dancer at the King’s Theatre in 1717. In his first season on the London stage, Glover was billed as ‘de Mirail’s Scholar’ and he was indeed a pupil of Romain Dumirail, the French dancer and teacher who had worked at the court of Louis XIV and the Paris Opéra. Between 1717 and 1723, Glover’s appearances in London were intermittent and he usually danced with companies of French comedians. He joined John Rich’s company at Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the 1723-1724 season and stayed with Rich until 1740-1741, his last season on the stage. Over that period, Glover rose from a supporting dancer to the company’s leading male dancer (in 1739-1740) before he was eclipsed by the arrival of Desnoyer at Covent Garden. Glover was appointed as royal dancing master in 1738, in succession to Anthony L’Abbé, although Desnoyer continued to teach Prince Frederick and his family. He created a ballroom duet The Princess of Hesse to celebrate the marriage of George II’s daughter Princess Mary in 1740 and it was published in notation.
Michael Lally (1707-1757) came from a family of dancers working in London’s theatres from the late 17th to the mid-18th century. Their respective careers are yet to be properly disentangled (the entries in the Biographical Dictionary of Actors require much revision). Michael was the son of Edmund Lally and brother of Edward Lally (born 1701), who were among the subscribers to John Weaver’s Anatomical and Mechanical Lectures upon Dancing in 1721. He may have made his stage debut in 1720, dancing for his brother’s benefit at Drury Lane. With his brother, he danced briefly at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, but returned to Drury Lane for the 1723-1724 season and stayed there for ten years. He joined John Rich’s company at Covent Garden in 1734-1735 and continued to work there until 1742-1743, although after 1737 he danced only at his annual benefit performances (he may have been dancing master to the company). Advertisements confirm that Michael Lally was a leading dancer first at Drury Lane and then at Covent Garden.
During the period when Francis Peacock may have studied with them, all three men were active as both dancers and dancing masters. They assuredly provided him with a grounding in French belle danse as practised in the ballroom, but could their teaching have gone further? Might they have included ‘Scotch Dancing’ as part of their tuition? Although all three were best known on stage for their serious dancing, they did also perform in other genres – including Scotch Dances.
Desnoyer came to Scotch Dances right at the end of his career. During his last season on the London stage, he danced a ‘New Scots Dance’ with Sga Barbarina (the Italian ballerina Barbara Campanini) at his benefit on 1 April 1742. They performed the duet together at least four times. It is worth noting that at the same performance Desnoyer and Sga Barbarina also danced ‘A Ball Dance call’d the Britannia [probably Pecour’s La Bretagne of 1704], and a Louvre concluding with a Minuet’. The ‘Louvre’ was Pecour’s Aimable Vainqueur. All three choreographies were routinely taught by London’s dancing masters. Glover choreographed his own Scotch Dance, for three couples, and it was first given at Covent Garden on 16 January 1733. It was one of the most popular of the Scotch Dances in London’s theatres and remained in repertoire until the 1740-1741 season. Like Desnoyer, Glover regularly performed the Louvre, usually with a Minuet, at his own and other benefits. Lally is not known to have performed other than a solo Highland Dance, given early in his career during the 1722-1723 season. However, like Desnoyer and Glover, he regularly performed the Louvre and a Minuet at his benefit performances.
Even if none of his teachers could or would have taught Francis Peacock a Scotch Dance, he would have been able to see such choreographies quite frequently in London’s theatres. As I explained in my post Scotch Dances on the London Stage, 1660-1760, there was a surge in their popularity during the mid-1730s which lasted into the early 1740s and even beyond – just at the time that Peacock must have been in London.
While the evidence I have brought together here remains inconclusive as to whether Francis Peacock might have learnt Scotch Dances while he was in London, it does suggest that Scotch Dances and French dancing had plenty of opportunities to influence each other during the years when he was taking lessons with Desnoyer, Glover and Lally. The following illustrations – one plate from L’Abbé’s ‘Spanish Entrée’ for Desnoyer with two entre-chats à six and Peacock’s description of the ‘Kem Badenoch’ with its mention of an ‘Entrechat’ – may perhaps provide food for thought.
I have written more about Desnoyer and Glover elsewhere (I am currently working on an article about the Lally family).
Moira Goff, ‘Desnoyer, Charmer of the Georgian Age’, Historical Dance, 4.2 (2012), 3-10.
Moira Goff, ‘The Celebrated Monsieur Desnoyer, Part 1: 1721-1733, Part 2: 1734-1742’, Dance Research, 31.1 (Summer 2012), 67-93.
Moira Goff, ‘Leach Glover, “Dancing Master to the Royal Family”, Part One: The Professional Dancer in Context, Part Two: Teachers of Dancing’, Dance Research (forthcoming).
Apart from his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, I couldn’t find any articles devoted to Francis Peacock either in print or online, although he does of course feature in George S. Emmerson’s A Social History of Scottish Dance (Montreal, 1972).
The following solo entr’acte dances were given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726:
Wooden Shoe Dance
Les Caractères de la Dance
As I mentioned in my last post about the entr’acte solos at Drury Lane, this season the Passacaille and the Spanish Dance were also performed there.
I recently wrote a post about Scotch Dances on the London stage and I began by mentioning those performed during the 1725-1726 season. Mrs Bullock performed a solo Scots Dance at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 4 October 1725 and repeated it at least ten times that season. Thanks to her and Newhouse (who performed a Scottish Dance with Mrs Ogden at least five times this season), Scotch Dances had become a regular feature in the entr’actes by the mid-1720s. Although we still don’t know much about them and where they might have come from.
On 13 October 1725, Nivelon performed a Wooden Shoe Dance and repeated what was surely the same dance ‘in the Character of a Clown’ (meaning a rustic or peasant) on 25 October. The solo was billed simply as a Wooden Shoe Dance for the rest of the season and he performed it at least eleven times. There had been occasional Wooden Shoe Dances as early as 1709-1710, but it was Nivelon who established them in the entr’acte repertoire. He sometimes danced a Wooden Shoe duet with Mrs Laguerre (although not in 1725-1726), but his solo was far more popular.
Only one of the many solos and other dances given in the entr’actes at London’s theatres over the course of the 18th century is widely known among those with an interest in dance history. At Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 27 November 1725, Marie Sallé performed ‘Les Caractères de la Dance, in which are express’d all the different Movements in Dancing’. The description refers to Rebel’s score, which runs through the courante, minuet, bourée, chaconne, saraband, gigue, rigaudon, passepied, gavotte, loure and musette in some eight minutes or so. This dance (which was also occasionally performed as a duet) has been much discussed and often recreated. Its history on the London stage is worth a post of its own, so I won’t say much here. Mlle Sallé gave it three times during the 1725-1726 season. It was revived by her once in 1726-1727 and then several times as Les Caractères de l’Amour (which I assume was essentially the same) in 1733-1734, her penultimate season on the London stage. The solo obviously proved popular, because it was performed by several of London’s leading female dancers into the early 1750s.
A solo French Sailor was apparently danced at Lincoln’s Inn Fields by Francis Sallé on 3 January 1726. I have been wondering whether this really was a solo, since every other performance of the French Sailor this season was a duet by both Sallés. There is no other reference to Francis giving a solo Sailor’s Dance, with the exception of his appearance in a Sailor’s Hornpipe in 1729-1730. The advertisement refers to ‘Mons Salle’s French Sailor’, which may simply be meant to draw attention to the fact that he had created the duet that he danced with his sister. Of course, he may simply have adapted that duet into a solo to be performed alongside the solo French Peasant by Nivelon and Mrs Bullock’s solo Scotch Dance on the same bill.
On 31 March 1726, Nivelon danced a solo French Clown. Although he was occasionally so billed, he was more often advertised in a Clown solo (he appeared at least once as a Dutch Clown). Nivelon’s repertoire, in particular his appearance in pantomime afterpieces, needs careful analysis, but it is possible that the main difference between these three solos was their costumes rather than their choreographies. The term ‘Clown’ can have rustic connotations, but perhaps Nivelon’s solo was related to the ‘Buffoon’ depicted by Lambranzi, who describes his performance thus (the translation is from New and Curious School of Theatrical Dancing translated by Derra de Moroda, edited by Cyril Beaumont and first published in 1928, p. 25):
‘This buffoon does various foolish but curious pas, with distorted but comic jumps, which he varies as much as possible and endeavours to make still more humorous, until the air has been played three times.’
Lambranzi shows the Buffoon performing a suitably distorted pas.
In 1725-1726, four different female dancers performed a solo Chacone in the entr’actes at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The first was Mrs Bullock on 31 March 1726, followed on 9 May by Mrs Anderson, on 11 May by Miss Latour and on 14 May by Mrs Wall. All were benefit performances (Miss Latour was dancing at her own benefit). Mrs Anderson went on to perform her solo Chacone another eight times during the theatre’s summer season. Without their music, it is difficult to know what these solos might have been like. Were they related to Pecour’s ‘Chacone pour une femme’ danced to music from Lully’s Phaëton and published in notation in 1704? Mrs Bullock’s Chacone was part of her repertoire from 1714-1715 to 1734-1735 and undoubtedly changed over the years. What little evidence we have of her technical abilities (in the form of L’Abbé’s ‘Saraband of Issee’ and ‘Jigg’ created for her and Dupré) suggests that she could be a virtuoso dancer. Was her solo Chacone popular because it was a tour de force?
Leach Glover made his first appearance of the season on 14 April 1726, a benefit for Mrs Laguerre and her husband, when he danced a solo Louvre. Most advertisements for the Louvre referred to the duet Aimable Vainqueur, a favourite for benefit performances, but solo billings point to quite different dances. They are never billed explicitly as such, but at least some of them may have been ‘Spanish’ dances using loures either from Lully’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme or Campra’s L’Europe galante. There was a recent precedent for such a solo in L’Abbé’s ‘Spanish Entrée’ created for the young George Desnoyer in 1721 or 1722 and published in notation around 1725.
This solo was to Lully’s music and provides a glimpse of the male dance virtuosity to be seen in London’s theatres at this period. This first plate includes cabrioles and a pirouette with pas battus (in modern terminology petits battements). Later in the solo there are several entre-chats à six, some of which are incorporated into tours en l’air.
At his benefit on 15 April 1726, Nivelon included his solo Flag Dance – a piece that he seems to have had a near monopoly on. He apparently introduced it to the London stage at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1723-1724 and was last billed performing it in 1730-1731. This is another piece which might have a link to Lambranzi, who has a dance by a ‘Switzer’ with a ‘standard’.
Nivelon’s dance may also have been related to the ‘Flourishing of the Colours’ performed by Signora Violante at the King’s Theatre in 1719-1720.
Nivelon was very busy in the entr’actes during 1725-1726, for on 15 April he also added a Dutch Boor to his repertoire. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, ‘Dutch’ dances were very popular on the London stage, although – apart from the Dutch Skipper – solo dances were far less often performed than duets. By London audiences, a ‘Dutch Boor’ was probably seen as a Dutch peasant or country bumpkin. Nivelon was rarely seen in ‘Dutch’ dances and this seems to be the only time he performed such a solo on its own.
Mrs Wall danced a solo ‘new Saraband compos’d by Dupre’ at the benefit she shared with Newhouse on 30 April 1726. It is possible that she had been taught by Dupré, although this was not mentioned in the bills. I wrote about the Saraband on the London Stage back in 2015, so I won’t say more here – except to suggest that this solo was a ‘French’ rather than a ‘Spanish’ Saraband.
There was a solo Spanish Dance at Lincoln’s Inn Fields this season, given by Lesac on 11 May 1726 – his benefit shared with Miss Latour, both of them billed earlier in the season as scholars of Dupré. Could this also have been a loure?
The last of the solos danced at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1725-1726 was a ‘new Comic Dance called Dame Gigogne’ performed by Mrs Anderson on 5 July 1726. This seems to be the only mention of this character in the entr’actes at London’s theatres. Dame Ragonde, however, turns up several times, notably in the mid-1710s, usually alongside various commedia dell’arte characters and sometimes with her ‘Family’. Dame Gigogne and Dame Ragonde are all but interchangeable and can be traced back in dance and music contexts to the late 17th century, notably to the cast of Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos given at Louis XIV’s court in 1688. For a short discussion of both characters and their history see Musical Theatre at the Court of Louis XIV by Rebecca Harris-Warrick and Carol G. Marsh (1994), particularly pages 41-43. This image of Dame Ragonde may hint at Mrs Anderson’s appearance in her solo.
She is shown as a lady of uncertain age in a distinctly old-fashioned dress.
I will turn my attention to dancing in the pantomime afterpieces at both playhouses next, although one or two other topics may intervene over the next few weeks.
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.