The Gothics’ fancy dress ball at the Hanover Square Rooms

The Gothics’ fancy dress ball at the Hanover Square Rooms. 1844. Source: Illustrated London News. Click on image to enlarge it.

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It has been once written, and very often said, that whilst in the country if you hare a leg of mutton for dinner, every body is anxicious to know whether you had caper-sauce with it, being as perfectly aware of the fact as yourself; yet in London you may have a deviled elephant for luncheon, without your next door neighbour knowing or caring anything about it. From this metropolitan ignorance or proximate occurrences, possibly the greater part of our readers are not aware of the existence of the “Gothics'” Costume Ball, which took place on Monday evening last, at the Hanover-square Rooms. This annual réunion, which has now reached its ninth anniversary, is decidedly the most picturesque affair of its class that takes place in London; and although numbering three hundred visitors, yet, from the excellent arrangements of its ruling powers, and the stringent regulations for vouchers and introductions, it may almost be looked upon in the light of a large private party, chosen, for the most part, from the literary and professional circles of the metropolis. Every gentleman is requirrd to appear in a fancy costume; the same rule is not enforced with regard to the ladies, who are left to dress according to their taste or inclination, but some fanciful attire is usually chosen.

By a capital regulation, introduced for the first time this year, all modern military and naval uniforms, professional robes, and hunting or club dresses, were declared inadmissible; and the result was that a superb coup d’oeil was formed by the costumes of the parties assembled, at about eleven o'clock, when all the visitors had arrived. Those who remember the fancy balls of eight or ten years back, overdone with Greeks, Turks, and Swiss peasants, would have been struck with the immense improvement in the taste of the characters. There were very few dresses either of the gentlemen or ladies on Monday night which were not in themselves picturesque; and many of them derived considerable additional interest from having made their first appearance at Her Majesty's bal costumé, in 1842.

Amongst these numerous beautiful and picturesque assumptions of character it is difficult to pick out many that were remarkably prominent for taste or effect. Perhaps, the most fanciful and elegant were those of a party of eight ladies and gentlemen, four of the former appearing as the Queens of Hearts, Spades, Clubs, and Diamonds, and their accompanying cavaliers as tne Knaves of the respective suits. The “making-up” was perfect and splendid; considerably enhanced by the personal charms of the fair monarchs. With the gentlemen, the picturesque dreeses of the moyen age were in the ascendant — the dark velvet tunic, red trunks, and pointed shoes. An “Ivanhoe” in a purple doublet covered with gold and the motto “Desdichado” embroidered on the breast Templar in a costly suit of light mail, and a Pursuivant of the fifteenth century, — were amongst the best dressed of this class. The foreign costumes were all effective, and some remarkably characteristic: we may briefly particularise a Khoordish chief (very faithful), a Chinese, and one or two dresses of Central Europe. Several gorgeous court suits of the commencement of the eighteenth century, with the Sir Roger de Coverleys, &c., of bygone times, were capitally arranged; and one or two Debardeurs. Postillions, and other truly French dresses considerably enlivened the diversified groups. The ladies were chiefly attired in the piquant fashion of Watteau, although there were many in Plantaganet tunics trimmed with white fur; one of these, of pink velvet, was very becoming.

At one o'clock, the supper-rooms were thrown open, and excellent arrangements had been made, by which every guest was enabled to sit down comfortably. At this time, the appearance of the assembled visitors was really gorgeous. The supper consisted of every conventional delicacy appropriate to the repast, with an unlimited supply of champagne, which infused fresh spirit, if indeed it was needed, into the visitors. Dancing was resumed after supper, to Adams's band, and continued with unabated energy until seven in the morning, when the party finally broke up, the band playing the national anthem. It would he doing Mr. Corrie an injustice, not to mention the very efficient and courteoua manner in which he performed the duties or Master of the Ceremonies: and arranged the different quadrilles and other dances with so much tact and attention, that no one was neglected or uncomfortable. In conclusion, we cannot but recommend our readers, if they are fortunate enough to know any of the committee who arrange the bail, to be present next year, and become a portion, as well as spectators, of one of the prettiest sights London can offer.

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“The Gothics’ fancy dress ball at the Hanover Square Rooms.” Illustrated London News. 48 (24 February 1844): 113-14. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 22 December 2015.

Last modified 24 December 2015