Tag Archives: Simon Slingsby

More Quadrilles in 18th-Century London

After the burst of interest in 1773, no more quadrilles were advertised in London’s theatres until 3 May 1776 when the performance at Covent Garden included:

‘New Dance Call’d The Academy, in which will be introduced the New Court Minuet and Rigadoon (never perform’d before) by Mas. Holland and Miss Armstrong; with a Minuet and Allemande, by Mas. Daigueville, and a Girl only 5 years old; to conclude with a new Cadrille, by Sg and Sga Zuchelli, Dagueville, and Sga Vidini’.

In this case, the identification of a quadrille with a cotillon performed by only four dancers seems plausible. The performance was a benefit for ‘Dagueville’ (Peter D’Egville), described as ‘ballet master’ in the advertisement, so did he create this quadrille?

However, just a couple of years earlier, there had been a private performance of quadrilles which might have bought them back on stage, although they are not explicitly mentioned in any bills. On 9 June 1774, Lord Stanley (Edward Smith Stanley, later 12th Earl of Derby) had given a Fête Champêtre at his country seat The Oaks, near Epsom in Surrey to celebrate his forthcoming marriage to Lady Elizabeth Hamilton. The report in the General Evening Post, 9-11 June 1774, mentioned (among many other entertainments) ‘an infinite number of persons habited as peasants who attended swings and other amusements, and occasionally formed parties quarrees to dance quadrilles’. The description ‘parties quarrees’ suggests four couples dancing in a square. I couldn’t find individual portraits of the happy couple around the time of the Fête Champêtre, but here is a double portrait of them with their son painted by Angelica Kauffman in 1776.

Lord and Lady Stanley Kaufmann 1776

Lord Stanley’s entertainment later became part of a play by John Burgoyne, The Maid of the Oaks, first performed at Drury Lane on 5 November 1774. A review in the Westminster Magazine for November 1774 sets out the plot and describes its divertissements:

‘After some superb exhibitions of transparent scenery, several characteristic airs, and elegant dances, Mr Oldworth … proclaims Maria his only daughter and gives her to Sir Harry. After a dance of Cupids, Hymen, &c. … offering them eternal wreaths, the Druid of the Oaks, freed by the present powers of Beauty from that sequestered habitation to which by mystic spells he had long been doomed, appears to ratify their union, and astonishes the spectators by his magic influence, in a glorious vision of that felicity the virtues of the happy pair had so justly insured. An admirable vaudeville, and a grand dance, conclude the dramatic entertainment’.

Cupid, Hymen and the Druid had all featured in Lord Stanley’s Fête Champêtre. The published text of the play makes clear that some of the scenes seen on stage represented the gardens and temporary buildings which had formed its backdrop the previous June. This print shows the ballroom designed and erected by Robert Adam for the occasion.

Adam Ballroom Oaks 1774 Stanley Fete (2)

The advertisement for the first performance of The Maid of the Oaks told would-be audiences that the piece would include a ‘Fête Champêtre’ with singing and dancing – ‘The Dances by Slingsby … Atkins, Como, Giorgi, Sga Crespi, Mrs Sutton, &c. and Sga Hidou, … The Ballets by M. Larevier’. The distinction between ‘Dances’ and ‘Ballets’ is interesting and perhaps reflects a difference between the choreographies performed by the guests at the Fête and the divertissement dances given by the professionals. Another source tells us that the Ballets were ‘very Grand’. There is no mention of quadrilles either on the bills or in the printed text. The latter refers only to ‘a Grand Dance of Shepherds and Shepherdesses’ at the end of act two, a ‘Country Dance’ towards the end of act four, and a Minuet at the beginning of act five – which ends with the ‘Grand Dance’. Perhaps the ‘Country Dance’ was actually a quadrille.

I am inclined to believe that The Maid of the Oaks did include quadrilles, if only because on 31 August 1774 the Daily Advertiser Carried the following announcement:

Daily Advertiser 31 Aug 1774 (2)

The Morning Chronicle for 22 November 1774 announced that Delatre’s New Set of Cotillons was to be published that day, with its ‘first published’ quadrille. Delatre may well have been making use of the publicity surrounding Lord Stanley’s Fête Champêtre. Was he also capitalizing on the dancing in The Maid of the Oaks? He may have been the Monsieur Delaître who danced at Drury Lane in the 1750s, beginning with Jean-Georges Noverre’s The Chinese Festival in 1755. He is one of the very few dancing masters for whom trade cards have survived. This is the most elaborate of three that are known and may date to the 1780s.

Delatre Trade Card (2)

I had thought that two pieces on these early stage quadrilles would have been enough, but I found quite a bit of interesting material. A third piece will take the story forward to the 1780s.

The First Quadrilles in London?

At an online cotillon workshop a few weeks ago, someone asked when cotillons changed to quadrilles. I was curious to know more about this, so I thought I would do some research. Of course, once I got started, I found more information and it was more complicated to analyse than I had anticipated. There may be more than one post on this topic.

I began with a couple of modern sources – Ellis Rogers’s extensively researched book The Quadrille (3rd edition, 2005) and Paul Cooper’s research paper ‘Cotillion Dancing in England, 1760s to 1810s’, which includes a section on early quadrilles, on the Regency Dances website. Both supply a wealth of information and references which I have tried to follow up and build on. My focus is usually dancing on the 18th-century London stage, so I thought I would also see if there were any quadrilles advertised in London’s theatres during that period. There were, so I have looked first and foremost at these. I don’t usually provide references in my posts, but I will give some here. Details of stage performances can be found in The London Stage.

In The Quadrille (p. 13), Ellis Rogers cites Jean-Michel Guilcher who states in his La Contredanse that before the 19th century the term ‘quadrille’ meant simply a group of dancers brought together to perform a dance. Paul Cooper tells us that quadrilles were danced in England from the mid-1770s and cites the dancing master S. J. Gardiner who, in his 1786 treatise A Definition of Minuet-Dancing, has a section ‘Of Cotillions, Quadrilles, &c.’ and writes of quadrilles – ‘They are Danced the same as the Cotillions, only with this difference, that instead of four Couple in the Cotillions, there are but two in the Quadrilles’ (p. 55).

On the London stage, the earliest recorded performance of a quadrille was on 27 March 1773 at Drury Lane. At the end of the play there was ‘A New Dance, in which will be introduced a Quadrille, by Daigueville, Giorgi, Atkins, Grimaldi, Sga Vidini, Sga Giorgi, Mrs Sutton, Mme Daigville, &c.’ The New Dance with its Quadrille was repeated on 30 March. It is interesting that eight dancers (four men and four women) are named, although the ‘&c.’ indicates that there were additional supporting dancers. It is impossible to tell which of the dancers might have performed the Quadrille – although my guess is that it was the eight who are named.

That same season a Grand Quadrille was given at the end of the opera at the King’s Theatre on 27 April. The advertisement tells us:

La Fete de Village will be done in the same manner as it was at Mlle Heinel’s Benefit, in which Mlle Heinel and Fierville will dance a Minuet, to conclude with a Country Dance and a Grand Quadrille by the principal dancers.’

There had been no mention of either a Country Dance or a Grand Quadrille when La Fete de Village was danced at Mlle Heinel’s benefit on 1 April 1773, although that ballet was repeated on 28 May and 8 June as well as 27 April with these additions. On 8 June the Grand Quadrille was advertised as danced by ‘Slingsby, etc.’ Simon Slingsby must have been one of the unnamed ‘principal dancers’ referred to on 27 April and presumably led both the Country Dance and the Grand Quadrille with a female partner.

These performances came soon after a private ball at which quadrilles were danced. Horace Walpole provides us with a description of the dancing at the ball given at the French Ambassador’s house on 26 March 1773:

‘The quadrilles were very pretty: Mrs Damer, Lady Sefton, Lady Melbourn and the Princess Czartoriski, in blue satin and blond and collets montés à la reine Elizabeth, Lord Robert Spencer, Mr Fitzpatrick, Lord Carlisle and I forget whom, in like dresses with red sashes, beaucoup de rouge, black hats with diamond loops and a few feathers before, began: then the Henri Quatres and Quatresses, who were Lady Craven, Miss Minching, the two Misses Vernons, Mr Storer, Mr Hanger, the Duc de Lausun and George Damer, all in white, the men with black hats and white feathers flapping behind, danced another quadrille, and then both quadrilles joined’. (The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, ed. W.S. Lewis (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937-1983), vol. 32, pp. 108-113. Letter to Lady Ossory, 27 March 1773).

Walpole’s use of the word ‘quadrilles’ here may well have Guilcher’s meaning and so does not really refer to what they were dancing – although each of the quadrilles did have eight dancers. The footnotes to the letter identify most of the dancers, almost all of whom were in their mid-twenties. At least two of them were painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds around this time – Anne Seymour Damer (1748-1828) in 1773 and Lord Robert Spencer (1747-1831) in 1769. They may have been partners for the first quadrille.

The ball was given an advance mention in the Public Advertiser for 25 March 1773, which provided the additional information that ‘The directors of the dances are Mr Slingsby and Monsieur Lepy’. Both were dancers at the King’s Theatre this season, raising the question whether Drury Lane stole a march on their rivals by adding a quadrille to the bill on 27 March, well before the King’s Theatre were ready to do so. Reading all this over, I am not sure I have quite fathomed the relationship between the French Ambassador’s ball and the various later stage performances.

There are references to quadrilles beyond this ball and the subsequent theatre performances, which seem to indicate that quadrilles were being introduced to London for the first time in 1773. On 8 April 1773 (after the French Ambassador’s ball and the first ‘quadrille’ performance at Drury Lane), Gallini advertised his forthcoming annual ball at Almack’s in the Public Advertiser and drew attention to the fact that the tunes in the second volume of his Treatise on the Art of Dancing ‘may be danced to in Quadrille as well as Cotillons’. When the ball was advertised again in the Public Advertiser on 17 April (it was to take place on 23 April) there was an addition to the wording – ‘By particular Desire, a double Quadrille will be performed’. On 30 April 1773 the Public Advertiser carried a notice for ‘Mr. Noverre’s Annual Ball’ to be held on 3 May (Mr Noverre was Augustin, younger brother of Jean-Georges). The dances would include ‘Minuets, Cotillons and a Double Quadrille, by Mr. Noverre’s Scholars’. Both Gallini and Noverre seem to have been trying to capitalise on the new dance that had caught public attention as well as emulate the double quadrille at the French Ambassador’s ball.

These quadrilles were being danced in London just a few years after the start of the craze for cotillons. Were they really quadrilles, or just another form of cotillon? I will return to the question of the combination of steps, figures, choreographic structure and music that defines a quadrille.