Since the custom of being presented at court had fallen by the wayside, most young girls made their "come-out" at Almack's. For the price of ten guineaus, a voucher might be purchased that would admit the bearer to the Wednesday night dances for the entire Season.
But not just anyone could purchase a voucher. The attendees had to pass the intense scrutiny of the patronesses before being approved. Even if one attended as the guest of a qualified member, as Grace does, the patronesses still had to officially sanction the visit. Possessing a voucher meant the difference between society and Society. If one had been rejected by Almack's, the ton might ignore that person completely.
Intimate dances like the minuet were discouraged and the waltz wouldn't arrive on the London scene until the Prince Regent featured one at his ball in July 1816. He was promptly blistered in the press:
"We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last ... it is quite sufficient to cast one's eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressure on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the civil examples of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion." (Source: The Times of London, 16th July 1816)
Little wonder oh-so-proper Almack's insisted on reels, country dancing and sedate quadrilles!
A light supper was served at 11 PM. This consisted of day old bread, sliced very thin, with butter, dry cake (meaning without icing, probably something like a pound cake), lemonade and tea. As my hero remarks about Almack's refreshments, "Their very awfulness is the stuff of legend." No alcoholic beverages were allowed in the assembly rooms (though Grace's father hopes Crispin has a flask of something in his waistcoat pocket for 'medicinal purposes!').
As much as the patronesses despised "trade," they were in reality the sponsors of the most lucrative sort. Almack's was the de facto hub of the Marriage Market. The merging of well-moneyed, well-connected wellborn families was the subtext of each dance. It's the perfect place for Grace Makepeace to meet her future titled husband. (Which Crispin realizes he's not so happy about only after he arranges her debut!)
Has a dance ever made a difference in your love life?
PS. It's TGITTPATC! (Thank God, It's Time To Post At The Chatelaines!) I'm following up my Hunks in History post here with one on The Joy of Being Properly Tied Up (on cravats, of course! What were you thinking?) there! Hope you'll join me for a look at sartorial splendor in a great age for it!