Tag Archives: London

Whig or Tory? The Politics of Beauty Patches

Joseph Addison founded The Spectator with his chum Richard Steele in 1711 for the promotion of wit and Enlightenment morality,  as well as to amuse with anecdotes of fashionable London society.   Purposed as a light education over tea or chocolate, it was read by over 60,000 as private subscribers or patrons of coffee houses, and was marketed to members of the rising middle class.  The fictional Mr. Spectator, a perspicacious observer and upright gossip, if you will, swore it his duty to relate weekly modes of society and celebrity.  555 papers were eventually printed and collected into seven volumes, and though The Spectator was defunct by the end of 1712, it experienced a revival in 1714 when a number of print runs were collected for an eighth volume.

The Spectator from a 1788 Edition

From a 1788 edition, a testament to its longevity which would last in reprints throughout the 19th century.  The eight volumes can easily found online on gutenberg and google books.

Our passage of interest relates to No. 81 on Saturday, June 2 and records Addison’s experience seeing an  opera at Haymarket Theatre, where he makes a political discovery regarding patches.  Now, if you are unfamiliar with the 18th century’s answer to the beauty mark, you’ll want to read To Patch or Not to Patch to learn their common use as a flirtation device.  Apart from Addison’s reference, I’ve never known them associated with political affiliation, but I rather like women bringing brains to their beauty, even if it did result in the petty partisan squabbling we still see today:

Une Dame à sa Toilette by Francois BoucherUne Dame à sa toilette by Francois Boucher

‘ . . . I could not but take notice of two parties of very fine women, that had placed themselves in the opposite side boxes, and seemed drawn up in a kind of battle array one against another!  After a short survey of them, I found they were patched differently; the faces, on one had, being spotted on the right side of the forehead, and those upon the other on the left: I quickly perceived that they cast hostile glances upon one another, and that their patches were placed in these different situations, as party signals to disguise friends from foes.  In the middle boxes, between these two opposite bodies, were several ladies who patched indifferently on both sides of their faces, and seemed to sit there with no other intention but to see the opera.  Upon inquiry, I found that the body of Amazons on my right hand were Whigs and those on my left Tories, and that those who had  placed themselves in the middle boxes were  a neutral party, whose faces had not yet declared themselves.  These last, however, as I afterwards found, diminished daily, and took their party with one side or the other; insomuch that I observed in several of them, the patches, which were before dispersed equally, are now all gone to the Whig or Tory side of the face. The censorious say, that the men whose hearts are aimed at, are very often the occasion that one part of the face is thus dishonoured, and lies under a kind of disgrace, while the other is so much set off and adorned by the owner; and that the patches turn to the right or to the left, according to the principles of the man who is most in favour.

‘But whatever may be the motives of a few fantastical coquettes, who do not patch for the public good so much as for their own private advantage, it is certain, that there are several women of honour who patch out of principle, and with an eye to the interest of their country.  Nay, I am informed that some of them adhere so steadfastly to their party, and are so far from sacrificing their zeal for the public to their passions for any particular person, that in a late draught of marriage articles a lady has stipulated with her husband, that whatever his opinions are, she shall be at liberty to patch on which side she pleases.’

Gotta love that.

You can read more of Addison’s reflections on patches in No. 81 where he goes on to discuss a famously beautiful Whig partisan who had the misfortune of a prominent mole on the Tory side of her face, an unexpected matronly zeal for patches, and patch wars.

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One Lovely Blog Award

A most thoughtful Madame de Pique, history obsessive and blogger of peculiarities, has bestowed upon Life Takes Lemons the ‘One Lovely Blog Award’, so here I am, passing on the blog love.  This, incidentally, is the best part about awards, discovering fantabulous new-to-you blogs.  There are also rules guidelines to this sort of thing, but they are generally the same across time and space:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.  (Thanks again, Madame P!)
  2. Add the ‘One Lovely Blog Award’ image to your post.
  3. Share seven things about you. 
  4. Pass the award on to seven nominees. 
  5. Include this set of rules.  
  6. Inform your nominees* by posting a comment on their blogs. 

7 Random Things about Your Host

I decided it would be more fun to reveal in pictures 7 places I’ve been . . .

Hoh Rainforest outside Forks, Washington | Olympics
Hoh Rainforest outside Forks, Washington | Olympics
Window from inside the palace in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
Window from inside the city palace in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
Crocuses in my backyard
Crocuses in my backyard
Path from Aiguille d'Midi station onto Mt. Chamonix, France
Path from Aiguille du Midi station onto Mt. Chamonix, France
Close-up of the semi-precious jewels on exterior of Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Close-up of the semi-precious jewels and flower relief on exterior of Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Random cow chowing in his field near the Blue Smokey Mountains, North Carolina
Cow chowing in his field near the Blue Smokey Mountains, North Carolina.  Possibly annoyed with me.
Sacre Couer, Montmarte, Paris
A view from the side of Sacre Coeur, Montmarte, Paris

Bloggers I recommend on account of their excellence in loveliness

Joyful Molly – Molly keeps a wonderful blog on naval history with lots of 18th century posts to boot.  Her ‘list of naval and historic resources’ is so, so useful.

Number One London – I could spend afternoons browsing around this blog on English history and daily living in the Georgian, Regency, and Victorian eras.

Treasure for Your Pleasure – a tumblr curating all things Marie Antoinette (and Versailles court) that’s visually diverting.  Good luck trying not to Pin during your visit.

The Virtual Victorian –  I’m getting more and more interested in the Victorian era and Ms. Fox is partly to blame.  Her ‘facts, fancies, and fabrications’ are delightful.

Regency History – Rachel Knowles’s blog on a well-rounded variety of  topics from the late Georgian period through the Regency makes for pleasurable and informative reading.

World of Poe – a self described ‘crotchety, contrarian chronicler of the stranger and more neglected highways and byways of all things Poe’.  Pretty much, yeah.  If you like a sharp-tongue, you will absolutely love Undine.  Her tweets are amusing as well.

Dressed in Time – One of my go-to blogs for historical costuming.  Caroline’s posts make me wish I could attain the patience for sewing, but for now I have her creations & inspirations to drool over.

To the seven bloggers named above, thank you for keeping our web spaces lovely!

*If you’re curious about the ‘nominee’ part, I’m not sure either.  One supposes we are all winners by default of nomination.  Either way, enjoy!

The Rise and Fall of May Fair

“May Fair, upon the authority of a tract that will be named presently ‘was granted by King James II under the great seal, in the fourth year of his reign, to Sir John Coell and his heirs for ever, in trust for the Right Honourable Henry Lord Dover and his heirs for ever; to be held in the field called Brookfield, in the parish of St. Martin’s, Westminster, to commence on the first day of May, and continue fifteen  days after it yearly for ever, for the sale of all manner of goods and merchandise.” Gentleman’s Magazine, 1816.

‘May Fair’ may have started out as a venue for cattle and other live trade in 1688, but soon enough the market diverged into an all out celebration of amusement and vice.  By the dawn of the 18th century, pickpockets and rogues were heading to the fair in droves.  The year 1700 brought such a disorderly crowd that the magistrates present were forced to send for the constables.  Their mission was to subdue the charlatans and thieves who went to prey on the merry and the drunk, but chaos erupted instead.  John Cooper, a peace officer, was accidentally killed when soldiers joined in the throng, and as a result May Fair’s reputation stumbled.

The people, however, loved their yearly May outing.  By 1707, after attracting the nobility and gentry (including the Lady Mary Finley as the must-see rope dancer) the fair was all the rage.   Everywhere one looked May Fair was bursting with revelry.   Here and there were Indian rope dancers and buffoons, puppet shows and music shows, stage plays and tricksters.  For those loose with their pockets, gaming, raffling, and lotteries served up yet another diversion.

In 1708 the right to hold the fair was openly attacked.  The throng and ongoing unsavory behavior were declared a public nuisance.  Come April of 1709, Queen Anne issued a Royal Proclamation prohibiting the erecting or making of stalls or booths for stage and music plays, along with any activity deemed disorderly.

Still May Fair refused to die and when the beast started breathing again, the atmosphere became more depraved.  Prize fighting, boxing, and bull-baiting flourished.  Its natural sibling–prostitution–arose with it. But alas, the people’s choice outing was not to last.  After almost a hundred years, the fifteen day fair was shut down in 1764.  The wealthy residents who had lamented at the ruckus had finally got their wish as the riffraff, so disdained for their lowbrow antics, were thrown from the property gobbled meadow and Mayfair as a district ascended to its height as N.P. Willis describes in his 19th century Prose Works:

May Fair!  What a name for the core of dissipated and exclusive London!  A name that brings with it only the scent of crushed flowers in a green field, of a pole wreathed in roses, booths crowded with dancing peasant girls, and nature in its holyday.  This—to express the costly, the court-like, the so called ‘heartless’ precinct of fashion and art in their most authentic and envied perfect.  Mais les extremes se touchent; and perhaps there is more nature in May Fair than in Rose Cottage or Honeysuckle lodge.

Paper Your Walls, London Style

Finally, a patterned wallpaper I could spend hours looking at.  Based on a map from the 1700s, Thibaut Design offers both wallpaper and fabric making it perfect for the full scale 18th century Anglophile or the occassional admirer of antique cartography.  Plus, the colors are so pared down as to almost be neutrals.  I particularly like tobacco which looks like aged sack cloth and would make a cute pillow.  Aqua and Linen are nice too.