Tag Archives: bawdy

In which the SCANDALOUS debauchery present at masked balls is discussed (alongside music and fashion).


To those who follow me on Twitter or who know me on Facebook, it is no secret that I hold Venetian masks and all things 18th century very close to my heart. Masked balls are a constant source of delight to me, whether attending them or researching them.

Masquerade balls started life in the 14th century with one of the first famous ones being a ‘Bal des Ardents’ held by King Charles VI of France. They gained popularity throughout the 15th century as a convenient way to celebrate monarchs and their reigns but it was in the 18th century when the masked ball really gained momentum. Due to the changing society, social rules were considerably more lax, creating a sense of informality with manners and more specifically, dress too.


‘Di degno Cavalier tenera Moglie’ by Pietro Longhi (1702–1785)

Cads, fops,rakes, doxies and concubines abounded, no longer feeling necessary to conform to the prudery of previous generations and finding numerous opportunities in which to conduct trysts. As the notoriety of masquerades increased, chaperones often accompanied others to these events. In these situations, dances were often used as a way to indulge in licentious language , physical contact and a frequent display of body language.

‘La Folia’ by Arcangelo Corelli – the ultimate piece of music to dance to at a masquerade.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHRdFILo_Yw

‘Chaconne des Scaramouches’ by Jean-Baptiste Lully – a rather elegant piece to dance to. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PW7dmsaNNm8

A minuet from ‘Les Indes Galantes’ by the incomparable Jean-Philippe Rameau.


Gavottes in D Major by the darling Johann Sebastian Bach



A depiction of a ballroom dance by August de l’Aubin

Dances common in the 18th century were chaconnes, ridottos, minuets, sarabandes, passacaille, rigaudon and my personal favourite, the gavotte.

It  does pain me to say this but Samuel Richardson was a critic of the masked ball. Henry Fielding and Eliza (we share a first name!) Haywood too. I highly recommend this page about the ‘Anti Masquerade movement’ – do read it! http://www.umich.edu/~ece/student_projects/masquerade/anti.html

Oh mon Dieu, had these critics no notion of FUN?


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In which I talk about(or rather muse about) bawdy,saucy,17th century poetry.


I’ve recently been on quite a 17th century poetry spree. My heart may belong wholly to the 18th century and all the individuals who made a part of it but until quite recently,I read the works of…..oh,how I hate to admit this,Victorian poets. This was remedied by a recent perusal of some famously licentious poems by the ‘Libertine poets’. This band of people who eschewed the moral restrictions society laid down proceeded to inspire artists and those with a penchant for writing by making their own views on morals all too clear. Their actions may seem like nothing unusual to us nowadays but it was all shockingly scandalous back then.


John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester

In my opinion,the essence of this defiance was captured in the writings of John Wilmot,2nd Earl of Rochester. Here are parts from his poem, ‘Against Constancy’ : ‘Tell me no more of constancy,that frivolous pretense/Strew my bed/I’ll change a mistress till I’m dead’.  This poem’s filled with such disdain for any sort of constancy even to a mistress because even that would command the ILLUSION of minor respectability. To be quite honest,smutty poetry is what it is-smutty. I always like to think that some 17th century poets used it partially as a front for expressing opinions on society and some just because that’s what they felt.  Of course,with libertinism  comes a degree of vanity and I DO NOT say that with any hint of prudishness. That may be left to the latter half of the 19th century. This vanity is what makes us (certainly me) adore these poets,composers,authors,artists and so forth. There are few things as attractive as someone who knows their own self worth!

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Filed under Musings about Poets/Poetry