William Wells Brown Visits The Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851

William Wells Brown

William Wells Brown, the child of a slave and slave owner, grew up in St. Louis in the early nineteenth century. He was sold many times before he escaped slavery in 1834. He adopted the name Wells Brown after the Quaker who helped him as a runaway. Having no formal education, Wells Brown taught himself to read and went on to become the first African American to publish a novel, play, and a travel guide. He wrote Three Years in Europe: Places I Have Seen and People I Have Met while lecturing on abolitionism in Europe. I’ve excerpted his description of The Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, which was the first world’s fair.

Crystal Palace

A Day in the Crystal Palace.

London, June 27th, 1851.

Presuming that you will expect from me some account of the great World’s Fair, I take my pen to give you my own impressions, although I am afraid that anything which I may say about this “Lion of the day,” will fall far short of a description. On Monday last, I quitted my lodgings at an early hour, and started for the Crystal Palace. This day was fine, such as we seldom experience in London, with a clear sky, and invigorating air, whose vitality was as rousing to the spirits as a blast from the “horn of Astolpho.” Although it was not yet 10 o’clock when I entered Piccadilly, every omnibus was full, inside and out, and the street was lined with one living stream, as far as the eye could reach, all wending their way to the “Glass-House.” No metropolis in the world presents such facilities as London for the reception of the Great Exhibition, now collected within its walls. Throughout its myriads of veins, the stream of industry and toil pulses with sleepless energy. Everyone seems to feel that this great Capital of the world, is the fittest place wherein they might offer homage to the dignity of toil. I had already begun to feel fatigued by my pedestrian excursion as I passed “Apsley House,” the residence of the Duke of Wellington, and emerged into Hyde Park.

The Great Exhibition by James Duffield Harding
The Great Exhibition by James Duffield Harding

I had hoped that on getting into the Park, I would be out of the crowd that seemed to press so heavily in the street. But in this I was mistaken. I here found myself surrounded by and moving with an overwhelming mass, such as I had never before witnessed. And, away in the distance, I beheld a dense crowd, and above every other object, was seen the lofty summit of the Crystal Palace. The drive in the Park was lined with princely-looking vehicles of every description. The drivers in their bright red and gold uniforms, the pages and footmen in their blue trousers and white silk stockings, and the horses dressed up in their neat, silver-mounted harness, made the scene altogether one of great splendour. I was soon at the door, paid my shilling, and entered the building at the south end of the Transept. For the first ten or twenty minutes I was so lost in astonishment, and absorbed in pleasing wonder, that I could do nothing but gaze up and down the vista of the noble building. The Crystal Palace resembles in some respects, the interior of the cathedrals of this country. One long avenue from east to west is intersected by a transept, which divides the building into two nearly equal parts. This is the greatest building the world ever saw, before which the Pyramids of Egypt, and the Colossus of Rhodes must hide their diminished heads. The palace was not full at any time during the day, there being only 64,000 persons present. Those who love to study the human countenance in all its infinite varieties, can find ample scope for the indulgence of their taste, by a visit to the World’s Fair. All countries are there represented—Europeans, Asians, Americans and Africans, with their numerous subdivisions… Of all places of curious costumes and different fashions, none has ever yet presented such a variety as this Exhibition.

There is a great deal of freedom in the Exhibition. The servant who walks behind his mistress through the Park feels that he can crowd against her in the Exhibition. The Queen and the day labourer, the Prince and the merchant, the peer and the pauper… all meet here upon terms of perfect equality. This amalgamation of rank, this kindly blending of interests, and forgetfulness of the cold formalities of ranks and grades, cannot but be attended with the very best results. I was pleased to see such a goodly sprinkling of my own countrymen in the Exhibition—I mean Black men and women—well-dressed, and moving about with their fairer brethren. This, some of our pro-slavery Americans did not seem to relish very well. There was no help for it. As I walked through the American part of the Crystal Palace, some of our Virginian neighbours eyed me closely and with jealous looks, especially as an English lady was leaning on my arm. But their sneering looks did not disturb me in the least. I remained the longer in their department, and criticised the bad appearance of their goods the more.

Crystal Palace
Mediaeval Court from the Great Exhibition of 1851 from Metropolitan Museum of Art. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/399129
Crystal Palace
from the V&A
from the British Library

In so vast a place as the Great Exhibition one scarcely knows what to visit first, or what to look upon last. After wandering about through the building for five hours, I sat down in one of the galleries and looked at the fine marble statue of Virginius, with the knife in his hand and about to take the life of his beloved and beautiful daughter, to save her from the hands of Appius Claudius. The admirer of genius will linger for hours among the great variety of statues in the long avenue. Large statues of Lords Eldon and Stowell, carved out of solid marble, each weighing above twenty tons, are among the most gigantic in the building.

Among the many things in the Crystal Palace, there are some which receive greater attention than others, around which may always be seen large groups of the visitors. The first of these is the Koh-i-noor, the “Mountain of Light.” This is the largest and most valuable diamond in the world, said to be worth £2,000,000 sterling. It is indeed a great source of attraction to those who go to the Exhibition for the first time, but it is doubtful whether it obtains such admiration afterwards. We saw more than one spectator turn away with the idea that after all it was only a piece of glass. After some jamming, I got a look at the precious jewel, and although in a brass-grated cage, strong enough to hold a lion, I found it to be no larger than the third of a hen’s egg. Two policemen remain by its side day and night.

Queen Victoria by Franz Xaver Winterhalter
Queen Victoria wearing the Koh-i-noor in a brooch. Portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter 

The finest thing in the Exhibition, is the “Veiled Vestal,” a statue of a woman carved in marble, with a veil over her face, and so neatly done, that it looks as if it had been thrown over after it was finished. The Exhibition presents many things which appeal to the eye and touch the heart, and altogether, it is so decorated and furnished, as to excite the dullest mind, and satisfy the most fastidious.

I’ve gathered images from several sources including Dickinson’s Comprehensive Pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Also see the Great Exhibition Of The Works Of Industry Of All Nations: Official Descriptive And Illustrated Catalogue .

A Time Traveler’s Guide To Dining Out In Victorian London

Are you thinking about time traveling to Victorian London for the Season? Have you considered where you will stay, where you will go,  and, most importantly, where you will dine? Luckily, there’s London Of To-day: An Illustrated Handbook For The Season to be your time-traveling tourist guidebook. The author, Charles Eyre Pascoe, recommends many dining establishments–from taverns to tearooms.  Let’s start with excerpts from the 1885 edition of his book.

Of all the dining-places in London, small or spacious, ancient or modern, highly ornate or very dingy, few supply “the joint” in greater perfection than the Albion, in Russell Street, Covent Garden. It is an unpretentious tavern, “all of the olden time,” the dining-room partitioned off into stiff-backed “boxes,” so that a party of half a dozen may dine and chat in reasonable privacy without being disturbed by casual comers. At one time it enjoyed a considerable reputation as a place of resort for literary men and actors. Its smoking-room was once the pleasantest place of the kind in London, outside the clubs, and harboured such genial spirits as the late Charles Dickens, Douglas Jerrold, Albert Smith, Shirley Brooks, Robert Brough, E. A. Sothern, J. L. Toole, Charles Lamb Kenney, and the rest. The punch concocted in that smoking-room was good; the water sent up boiling hot in an old-fashioned pewter jug, the glass with an old-fashioned silver toddy-ladle, and the spirit in an equally old-fashioned fat little pewter measure. Those were the days when the Albion had the privilege of keeping open till three o’clock in the morning, and its smoking-room was the rendezvous of journalists, authors, actors, and other good men and true, after the closing of the theatres. After five o’clock a fresh joint is served in the dining-room of this tavern every half-hour—saddle or haunch of mutton, ribs or sirloin of beef, roast fowls, boiled round of beef, rumpsteak-puddings, and so on. Fish is served in the same order—salmon, turbot, brill, haddock, &c. The dish you elect to dine from is wheeled up to your table, and the carver serves you with as much and as often as you please. The Albion provides its customers with a thoroughly home-like English dinner, which costs, with a moderate quantity of light wine or ale, from three shillings to five shillings. It is to be noted that this dining-room is never honoured with the presence of ladies.

Illustration from London of To-day

The chief rivals of the Albion (not to be confounded with its namesake in Aldersgate Street) in the West and Central districts are “Blanchard’s,” in Beak Street, Regent Street; “Simpson’s,” in the Strand; the Rainbow, near the Middle Temple Gate; the St. James’s Restaurant, in Piccadilly. The dinners supplied at these places are to be commended. A better roasted saddle or haunch of mutton than “Simpson’s” serves, or used to serve daily, is not to be had in London. The Rainbow is largely patronized by the lawyers. “Blanchard’s” is largely frequented by civil service officials, and the wealthier west-end tradesmen. The St. James’s is a good place for luncheon, particularly during the season.

***

Half-a-dozen years ago the best French restaurant to be found in all London was a little place in Church Street, Soho, quite away from the beaten track, kept by one M. Kettner. The rooms were small and ill-ventilated, and the place and its surroundings were stuffy and uninviting; but the dinners sent up from M. Kettner’s kitchen were delicious.

At Mouquin’s by William J. Glackens

Among the French restaurants of greater note in London, Verrey’s is entitled to the front place. It stands on the west side of Regent Street, at the corner of Hanover Street. We advise anyone who during the season has a very special luncheon, or dinner, in contemplation, to seek out Verrey’s… It does not make much show (all the better for that, perhaps), and its cookery and wines are excellent. Verrey’s was, we believe, the first French restaurant opened in London. The original Verrey was a Swiss, who, long ago, gained a reputation for sweetmeats… He was in a flourishing condition forty or fifty years ago; and in the Great Exhibition year, Verrey’s restaurant became the rendezvous of the more aristocratic foreign visitors to London, who flocked thither to eat pistachio ices, and other delicate morsels.  

At Verrey’s, as in Paris, one can call for any of the well-known dishes in la haute cuisine; the “carte” is simply a guide to the uninitiated. The portions served are usually sufficient for two covers. The wine-card shows that the cellar contains the famous vintages, ’69 Lafites (tirage du chateau), for example, Romanée Conti, ’74 Pommery, &c. The list of vintage champagnes, indeed, is unequalled.

***

American and continental visitors chiefly patronize this restaurant about noon for the déjeuners à la fourchette; afterwards, from 12.30 to 3 p.m., many ladies “drop in” to lunch after shopping. The chef’s best efforts, however, are reserved for the evening.

Illustration from London of To-day

In the neighbourhood of the Strand are one or two good dining places, chiefly, however, patronized by gentlemen, notably the Tivoli, Romano’s, and Gatti’s recently renovated Adelaide Cafe. At the first, German cookery, and, for a London restaurant, good German wines and beer are to be had. The prices, too, are moderate. Romano, whose charges are high, has a reputation for Italian and French cookery, and on the whole is not undeserving of it. Gatti’s appeals rather to the popular support; and a man (or woman) of slender resources and fair appetite may find a good dinner here for something less than 2s. There is more than one French cafe in the neighbourhood of Leicester Square, which may be recommended for a French twelve o’clock breakfast

***

As a rule, ladies will find themselves restricted to a choice of half-a-dozen London restaurants or confectioner’s shops, in which they may lunch or dine with comfort. The chief of these are Verrey’s Cafe Restaurant, the Bristol, the Burlington in Regent Street, St. James’s, before mentioned, the Grosvenor Gallery Restaurant, the Grand, and the establishments of Spiers and Pond at the railway stations and elsewhere. The principal confectioners patronized by ladies are Charbonnel and Walker’s, 173, New Bond Street, who stand supreme; Marshall’s, opposite Charing Cross Railway Station; Thompson’s, 188, Regent Street; Simpson’s, 247, Oxford Street; Duclos’, near the Princess’s Theatre (178, Oxford Street); Buszard’s, 197, in the same street (south side). 

Library of Congress

Ladies, with proper escort, going to the theatres, will find both the Criterion and the Grand pleasant trysting-places for dinner between six and seven. So, also, St. James’s restaurant in Piccadilly.

***

On Sunday, if one should be compelled to dine away from his hotel or lodging, he must arrange to take his principal daily meal either between 1 and 3, or after 6 afternoon. The London restaurants are closed till 1, and between 3 and 6. Dining-places like Verrey’s, the Bristol, the Continental, and cafes of lesser degree are usually full on Sunday nights. The former are largely patronized by gentlemen who treat their wives and daughters to a mild dissipation to break the monotony of Sunday, or by more conscientious folk who dine out to give their servants a rest. 

Claude Allin Shepperson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (1910)

With respect to the railway terminal restaurants, it may be interesting to note, for sake of comparison, that the London and North-Western, London and South-Western, Great Northern, Great Western, and Midland Companies, manage their own refreshment bars, or rather have them managed by contractors. A traveller may secure a meal of hot roast meat and vegetables, the wing of a fowl, or a savoury pie, together with wine, beer, coffee, tea, or milk, at a reasonable price. Several of them are quite popular dining-rooms, notably the Mansion House Metropolitan Station refreshment room…The Holborn- viaduct establishment has of late become popular, and deservedly so.

Of chop-houses there are still a few remaining: the Cock Tavern, in Fleet Street, lives on its reputation acquired before the Griffin and the Law Courts stood where they now stand: The Cheshire Cheese, in the same thoroughfare, is of equal distinction among chop-houses, though, as it seems to us, not quite the Cheshire Cheese of twenty years ago; Stone’s, in Panton Street, in the Haymarket, is entitled to special notice as one of the oldest of this class of houses in London.

The following excerpts can be found in the 1890 edition of London Of To-day.

Try the Dorothy Restaurant in Oxford Street (near Orchard Street) if you are among the number of those who “detest to have men about the place.” Dorothy Restaurants admit no men. Such as cannot abear the smell of baked meats might try Bonthron’s and one or two confectioners in Regent Street, or the Aerated Bread Company’s dépôts (to be noticed in almost every leading thoroughfare) and find them to their liking. These last are good places, clean, and well-managed, supplying very fair coffee and tea, milk, and wholesome bread and butter, eggs, etc., at moderate prices —5d. for a cup of coffee and bread and butter.

***

Than Gunter’s, in Berkeley Square, there is no better place in London for ices.

The Corner Table by Irving Ramsey Wiles

Vegetarianism may be practised at a restaurant near Duke Street, Oxford Street; at the Arcadian in Queen Street, Cheapside; or at the Apple Tree in London Wall, within the City, and rather out of the track of ladies. Those, however, most curious in the matter of vegetarian diet might take a peep into the Central Vegetarian Dining and Tea Rooms (a rough-and-ready sort of place in St. Bride Street, near Ludgate Circus), and read the prices and items therein exhibited of “Diners a la carte” “the sixpenny tea-tray,” and “the ninepenny tea-tray”—a marvellous assortment of homely and wholesome dishes of vegetables and of meal served at a very cheap rate.

Of banquets not specially prepared for the few, but daily organized for the many, we know of none more likely to meet the requirements of the diner-about in London, and those to whom he proffers hospitality, than the table d’hote dinners of the Grand and Metropole hotels. Apart from the essential materials of the meal, which few, we think, will find cause to grumble at, the whole business of these daily banquets is well contrived and well carried out.

Illustration from London of To-day

The dining-halls are well ventilated and spacious; the assembled company in the Season comprises not a few people of the first fashion staying in London; the tables are effectively arranged and decorated; a plenty of lights shows up the dresses of the ladies; and all is done in good taste, and with a view to the gratification of the eye, no less than the personal ease and contentment of the guests. 

One has but to take his place at the appointed table, glance at the menu laid before him, and proceed to the business of the evening, without care for the service or thought for the kitchen: the fair recompense demanded by the management for a seat at table being the sum of five shillings: not an extravagant charge, as charges elsewhere in London rule, having regard to the many conveniences that such hotels as these provide, and especially where ladies are of the company. No restaurant in London that we know is so desirable in respect of accommodation. The reception-rooms are open to you for receiving your friends before dinner, and the drawing-rooms lor chatting with them after dinner. 

The table d’hote dinner is daily served in each case from 6 to 8.30 p.m. For those later going to the opera or theatres, there are few better places in London, for the preliminary dinner. It is well in the busy season of summer, however, to order a table to be reserved beforehand.

The conveniences, we repeat, are many; the price fixed, and moderate; the dining-salons are spacious; everything is done in good taste; and the dinner is generally superior to that to be had in a restaurant for the same money, and is altogether better served. 

Illustration from London of To-day

It is of no little advantage to ladies coming to London, for the evening, from the suburbs or outlying districts to know of a place where they may dine in evening dress without seeming conspicuous, or intermingling with those whom they might be indisposed to meet. Either at the Grand Hotel or the Hotel Metropole they may be sure of the proprieties being very carefully observed.

The tables, for the most part, are reserved to family parties, and visitors staying in the hotel; and the service of the dinner is so arranged as to allow of a very fair margin of time for partaking of it without hurry and discomfort. “Our representative” of the Grand Hotel, hereinbefore referred to, has directed our attention to the following, as an example of the ordinary five-shilling table d’hote dinner there served: 

Antoine Gustave Droz

Get Out The Tennis Racquets And Persian Carpets! It’s Victorian Garden Party Time!

The season for garden parties is almost here. Soon your mailbox will be overflowing with invitations. You must get a jump on your party planning, because as the anonymous author of  Party-Giving On Every Scale writes, “The ladies of each county consider it incumbent upon them to entertain their neighbors at least once or twice during the summer months.” You must come up with menus, erect tents, and find a military band to play at your party. And, if you’re like me, you don’t have a household staff to take care of the trifling domestic matters. Luckily, keeping you from social disgrace is Party-Giving On Every Scale, published in 1880. This lovely volume contains the secrets to throwing a wildly successful Victorian garden party, which is sure to make you the envy of your friends and neighbors.


Garden Party is a popular and not expensive form of entertainment, as hospitality can be shown to a large circle of guests at a very modest cost. These afternoon garden parties take place from four to seven, but are only held as a matter of course from June to October. Garden parties are fashionable entertainments, and are frequently given on a very large scale. Royalty itself leads the way by giving afternoon parties to which from 800 to 1000 guests are invited, which is more or less followed by all ranks of society, including bishops in their palaces, officers in barracks, and members of yachting clubs on the lawns of the club houses, while in the suburbs of London these entertainments are very general, and in the country itself, garden parties are an institution in every county, and the young ladies are able to count their invitations to them by the score. The ladies of each county consider it incumbent upon them to entertain their neighbours at least once or twice during the summer months, and those who have extensive grounds find that a garden party, of all entertainments, entails the least trouble and expense.

At large garden parties, where the guests assemble by hundreds instead of by tens, there is generally one or two military bands in attendance; if given by a regiment, assaults of arms take place at intervals for the amusement of the company.

Garden Party – Philip Leslie Hale

Refreshments at these entertainments are invariably served indoors; but in the country refreshments at smaller garden parties are sometimes served in a tent, or on tables placed under the trees. At large garden parties tents of various sizes are erected on the lawn, and fitted up with seats in addition to the numerous chairs and garden seats that are indispensable, these are placed in rows in the vicinity of the band, and in all available shady spots.

At suburban or country garden parties rugs and Persian carpets are spread on the lawn under the trees, upon which seats are placed, so that should the grass be damp the guests need not fear taking cold.

The guests usually arrive from half-past four to five, and are received by their entertainers either on the lawn itself or in a tent, the names of the guests being announced by the butler or by the head-waiter.

A garden party at Buckingham Palace on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee

Guests on their arrival usually inform their servants at what hour they purpose taking their departure, and expect their footmen to be in readiness at the time named to call up their carriages.

The usual run of garden parties given on a small scale averages from forty to one hundred guests, and in giving the details of the expenses consequent upon providing for a garden party, it is purposed to take the medium number, seventy-five; that in calculating the expenses for a larger or smaller number of guests it may be arrived at by adding to or deducting from this given number.

Lawn-tennis is now generally played at garden parties, so much so that garden parties are often designated lawn-tennis parties. In town and in the suburbs a military band is generally engaged to play from four to sevenin town a military band means the bands of the 1st or 2nd Life Guards, or that of the Royal Horse Guards Blue, and the bands of the Grenadier, Coldstream, or Scots Guards. These fine bands are a great attraction at a garden party, and a band belonging to either of these regiments can be obtained at the following barracks: Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, Wellington, and Chelsea Barracks, and at the Tower. The permission of the colonel of the regiment, or that of the “president of the band,” has to be solicited as a matter of courtesy or form, when the bandmaster is applied to for his band, subject to this permission being granted. The cost of the band is regulated by the strength of its numbers, the charge ranging from 10s to 15s. per man.

People who reside within twelve miles or so of London when they require a band to play at a garden party, usually apply to the nearest regiment quartered in their vicinity, such as Hampton Court or Hounslow, while those who reside in the neighbourhood of garrison towns, such as Woolwich, Chatham, Portsmouth, Dover, etc., have quite a choice of bands, and the cost of these averages 8s. to 10s. per man, and five guineas is the usual price to pay for twelve performers.

Those who reside at a considerable distance from a town where a regiment is quartered fall back upon the band of the county militia, yeomanry cavalry, or local volunteers; the cost of which bands average also from 8s. to 10s. per man, exclusive of railway fares and refreshments.

The usual refreshments provided for a band at a garden party consist of cold meat, ale, or sherry, or claret, as the bandmaster may prefer:—the cost of which would amount from 25s. to 30s.

Unless a garden party is given on the most economical scale, and it is desirable to spend next to nothing upon it, it is always advisable to engage a band, as the expense is small in comparison with the pleasure derived from it; but when a garden party is merely a small friendly gathering of from five-and-twenty to forty guests, the expense of a band is considered unnecessary, and its presence rather pretentious than not.

In providing garden seats and chairs for the accommodation of guests at a garden party, seats for one-third the number of those invited would be sufficient, in addition to the seats in the drawing-rooms, tea-room, and elsewhere.

Various descriptions of tents are usually erected at garden parties, umbrella tents, round wall tents, canopy tents, and small marquees. The cost of hire of these tents and marquees ranges from £1 10s. to £20, according to size and description of tent.

Bright-looking Persian rugs for spreading on lawns can be bought from 9s. 6dto 70s. each; the cheaper ones, although of coarser and commoner materials, answer the purpose equally well; although our transatlantic neighbours, with their usual disregard of expense, make a grand display of handsome Persian rugs at their fashionable garden parties; but this comfortable custom may be followed without going to any considerable expense in the matter of rugs, always bearing in mind that old and faded hearth-rugs and mats have not an inviting appearance, and that squares of carpet do not offer sufficient resistance unless of the thickest texture—velvet-pile, Turkey, or Axminster. The ubiquitous crimson drugget, although available at all other entertainments, putting as it does a bright face upon much that is dingy in the way of carpets in corridors, landings, cloak-rooms, etc., is at a discount at a garden party.

Tea and Tennis – Edward Frederick Brewtnall 

The refreshments are almost invariably served in the house itself, for several reasons—it entails far less trouble to serve refreshments in a tea-room, where all conveniences are at hand, than to arrange a buffet on the lawn under the trees. When it is desirable, however, that refreshments should not be served in the house from want of space, or some equally good reason, a large tent or marquee is hired for the purpose, the cost of the hire of which, say one 20 feet square, ranges from £and upwards; but, unless the guests number over one hundred, the expense of a tent for refreshments is seldom incurred, besides which a marquee is by no means a cool retreat on a sultry August afternoon, and a dining-room of a house, well ventilated and kept cool by the exclusion of hot air, is a far pleasanter resort for a large party of guests. Again, guests at a garden party find the change from the gardens to the house rather an agreeable one, and for this reason the reception rooms of a house or mansion are thrown open at a garden party, including drawing-rooms, library, billiard-room, or picture gallery if the house boasts of one.

The largest ground-floor room of a house, with the exception of the drawing-room, is usually converted into a tea-room, in which tea is served on dining tables in the centre of the room, or from a buffet at the upper end of the room, as at an afternoon dance or five o’clock tea. Trays with refreshments are carried on to the lawn by the men-servants in attendance during the afternoon, and handed to the guests,—one servant carrying a tray with cups of tea and coffee, another a tray with glasses of sherry or ices.

The refreshments indispensable at a garden party are tea and coffee, sherry and claret cup, cake, and biscuits. Fruit and ices are given in addition to these refreshments when a saving of expense is not of paramount importance to the giver of an entertainment.

For a party of seventy-five guests, 1 lb. of tea would be used, 1 1/2 lbs. of coffee. This quantity of tea and coffee would make 3 gallons of each, allowing a little over 5 ozs. of tea to the gallon, and 8 ozs. of coffee to the gallon. Tea should be made as required, in an urn holding 1 gallon, while the whole quantity of coffee is made in a 3 gallon coffee-kettle or copper; half this quantity should be served hot, and half as iced coffee in glass jugs, prepared with the proper quantity of milk and sugar, the coffee having been placed in ice some hours before required for serving.

Iced claret cup is also made as required, and 2 gallons is usually found sufficient for this number of guests, allowing 8 bottles of claret and 8 bottles of soda-water for the quantity of cup, in addition to about 2 lbs. of loaf sugar; the cost of this claret, at 18s. the dozen, would amount to 12s.; the price of soda-water, as has been before said, ranges from 1 1/2dto 3dper bottle, according to where it is purchased.

Badminton averages the same as does claret cup. Champagne cup and Moselle cup are but seldom given, but when provided, sweet champagne or sparkling Moselle, the former at 42s., and the latter at 36s. per dozen, would be good enough for this purpose. The same quantity of either of these wines would be required for this as for claret cup, viz.: 8 bottles of wine to 8 bottles of soda-water, but the quantity of cup drunk at a garden party depends upon the number of gentlemen present, and also whether they are players of lawn-tennis, in which case there would probably be a run upon iced cups; thus less than 2 gallons, or more than two gallons, would be drunk, according to circumstances. When matches of lawn-tennis are played at a garden party, a table is placed on the lawn, with iced drinks, sherry and seltzer-water, for the benefit of the gentlemen. Sherry and seltzer is rather a favourite drink with men in general, and 6 to 8 bottles of sherry would probably be drunk, or even less, according to the number of gentlemen present; thus, from 1 1/2 to 3 dozen seltzer-water would be required, but, as has been before said, it entirely depends upon how many gentlemen are present.

In some remote counties, for instance, the gentlemen at a garden party are represented by three or four young curates and two or three old gentlemen, while the ladies perhaps muster from forty to fifty, in which case very little wine is drunk. When garden parties are held in or near London, or in the home counties, or in or near cathedral cities, in or near university towns, and garrison towns, &c., the numbers are more equal, and generally one-third of the guests are gentlemen ; therefore, a hostess, when providing wine for a garden party, naturally takes this into consideration.

Susanna’s note: The author breaks out the amounts of ices and strawberries required and their respective costs. She refers to other sections in the book for the expenses of cakes, biscuits, and china rental. If you are writing or researching or merely curious about these topics, do peruse the sections of the chapter I have omitted.

Refreshments are served from 4 to 7—from the commencement to the termination of a garden-party. Two women-servants should pour out the tea and coffee; a third should serve either ices, or strawberries and cream, when given, while the guests help themselves to all other refreshments on the tables, whether to fruit, wine, or cup, etc. One man-servant should also be in attendance in the tea-room to offer any assistance in the way of opening soda-water or pouring out wine. An attendant is hardly required in the cloakroom, unless the party is a very large one, as ladies are not always shown into the cloak-room on their arrival at a garden-party, and many ladies prefer to leave their wraps and dust cloaks in their carriages.

A Love Poem By Paul Laurence Dunbar

I recently came across several lovely illustrated volumes of poetry by American poet, novelist, and playwright Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1872 – 1906. The last line of his playful poem “Dinah Kneading Dough” caused me to sigh, so I’m passing it along for your enjoyment.

You can find the poem in Candle-Lightin’ Time (love that title!) published in 1901. I’ll post more of his poems in the future!

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Making It On The Victorian Stage – You’ve Been Cast! Now What?

Welcome to another installment of my Victorian theater post series! Leman Rede’s book The Road To The Stage, Or, The Performer’s Preceptor, first published in 1827, has sparked my imagination to write about an actor or actress character in a future book. Imagine the possibilities for a character who is knowledgeable of fencing, stage makeup, and maintains an expansive wardrobe of costumes and wigs! Perhaps such a character could find a murdered body in the Victorian London sewer system (as described by my post on the subject) and, perhaps, might have to solve the mystery. See, there’s a method to my blog madness 😊.

Originally I had intended to create three posts based upon the many incarnations of Mr. Rede’s book. However, I’ve decided going forward to reduce the size of my blog posts in order to 1.) maintain my fragile sanity 2.) have more activity on my blog.  Therefore, I’ll have a few more posts based on Mr. Lede’s book in the future. Today, I’m excerpting passages from a later Victorian version of his book titled The Guide To The Stage, Or, How To Enter The Theatrical Profession, Obtain An Engagement, And Become An Actor. Founded On And Partly Taken From Leman Rede’s Book.

Enjoy!

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth

Should you have been engaged prior to the commencement of the season, you will be called with the company by a notice in the papers, to attend a meeting in the green-room, generally two or three days before the theatre opens ; but if you are engaged any time during the acting season, you had better call at the Theatre every evening in order to ascertain whether your name is cast in any of the pieces. It has been customary in all well-ordered theatres, for the call-boy to notify at their place of residence, such of the performers as are in the pieces to be rehearsed; but I think you better manifest your early zeal by calling yourself, as I have stated.

The first thing after you receive a part, is to become perfect in the words as soon as possible; in a new piece, never be seen at the last rehearsal with the book or MS. in your hand.  Should the play be in manuscript it will be read to the company in the green-room, to which you will pay particular attention.

It is usual at the commencement of the season for the stage-manager to list upon the door of each dressing-room containing the names of the persons who are to occupy the apartment; but should this not be done, you will consult the stage-manager at once. Having ascertained your room, and the place which you are to occupy in dressing,

You will next proceed to the wardrobe, and learn of the master or costumier what style or articles of dress you will have to be furnished with, in order that you may throw in what extras you may want from your private stock to make up the character; having settled all these matters, go home and select such articles and private properties as you will need for the night, and then read your part over.

When called to the theatre, be careful to make your appearance at the very time specified, this will not only exhibit a commendable devotion to your profession, induce a regularity in your business habits, and prevent your liability to a reproof from the stage-manager or prompter, and prevent a deduction from your week’s salary as “ a forfeit.”

Upon entering the green-room … look at the cast case, see what you are concerned in, and make a memorandum of the parts, &c. If the plays be standard pieces, or such as published, it is expected that you will furnish your own books to study your parts from. Should the play or plays be in manuscript, a written part will be handed to you— this you will take care of, and give back to the prompter or call-boy, when the piece is withdrawn from the stage.

Sarah Siddons

You will next look at the call-board, ascertain what pieces are called for rehearsal; the hour at which each rehearsal is to take place. Should you be concerned in any of the pieces called, see to getting the play, or the part that you are to perform, and study the words of the character, and then appear at rehearsal at the stated-time, and go through your business,&c.

Take a seat in the green-room, examine your part, ascertain which side of the stage you are to make our entrances and exit, the precise entrance or wing, and your cue for entering, which is the last line spoken previous to your going on, and then wait quietly till you are summoned by the call-boy, at which you will proceed immediately to your place of entrance, arrange your manner of entering, and listen attentively for your cue.

Charles Kean

At rehearsal, if there is any particular movement or action, technically termed “business ” for you to perform, the stage-manager or prompter will explain it to you, and show you how to go through it.

Having rehearsed one scene—should you have another, or anything farther to do in the piece, retire to the green room, until you are again called ; never, under any circumstances, leave the theatre, or be out of the way, when you are liable to be called for the stage.

It is the duty of the call-boy, to summon you from the green-room only, unless your presence is required in the music-room for some especial purpose.

Operas, ballets, pantomimes, and some particular pieces are generally called for by the act; that is all concerned in the piece, are summoned at the commencement of each act, and are expected to be at their places of entrance, &c., without further notice.

Should there be any changes made with your entrances, or in anything else at rehearsal, always mark your part according to such alterations, and also make a memorandum of the stage properties, which you are to carry on or use at night, in order to avoid trouble or difficulty, in case the call-boy should forget or neglect to hand them to you.

Be sure to check out the earlier posts in this series!