Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Dancing - at Almack's


Oh! let me sing the "sprightly gallopade,"
Which seems so easy, but which is so hard,—
At least to dance it well. I do not mean
To romp it, as, alas! too often seen.
Well may mammas and chaperons then exclaim,
"Why, what a dance! ‘tis really quite a shame
To suffer it !" but no—I mean the elide,
With which the graceful Danischwild doth glide
So smoothly o’er the boards. Here let me tell
The sad mishaps, which Wednesday last befell
Some young aspirants for the "galoppe’s" fame,
At Almack’s ball—but whom? I must not name.
One round the room his partner safely bears,
While one his ancient war~cry thinks he hears—
"Charge, Chester! charge !" He did at such a pace,
(Against the ropes,) that falling on his face,
Quite stunned the hero lay upon the ground,
His hapless partner too, some gather round;
While murmurs from the lips of many a beau,
" Alas! that such a man should fall so low
But while the music in a lively strain
Strikes up, and dancing recommenced—again
It ceased, that two more might be raised
From the glib floor, which often they had praised
For being "smooth and slippery like glass."
Ah! little did they think how soon, alas!

‘Twould prove their saying—and before
The dancing ceased, upon that very floor
Another couple fell. Then, practise, beaux
Perhaps you may improve, perhaps—who knows?
Mind, ere you go again to Almack’s ball
To gallope well, like some, else not at all!

In reference to the above, the following lines were written, under the head of an


Ye spiteful tongues, who deem it well
To speak the luckless fate of those who fell
At Almack’s glitt’ring hall,—O! give their due
To all! and sing the triumph of the gallant two
Who fell, only triumphantly to rise,
Regardless of the smiles of gazing eyes.
No right, indeed, had envious lips to say,
"Upon the floor" the fallen C—st—r lay,
For lightly springing from the ground,
His trembling partner bearing round,
Again he braved the gallopade,
By all allowed to be so hard.
Not so the waltzers—they, (0 thoughtless crew
Along the slipp’ry boards their way pursue
Till careless of each other’s headlong course,
The couples meet wiTh stunning force— 
Their balance lost, down, down the foremost go!
Four prostrate lie! one luckless belle below!
Nor could their fallen spirits soar
Like some ! for they could dance no more!
And, C—st—r, had you staid to see their fall,
Well might you say,—" Waltz well! or not at all !"

The gallopade and the waltz are now the only things danced at the Almack’s balls. I have heard the question asked, why is it so? I have also, let me add, heard it said, in answer to the question, that it is because that if new dances were to be introduced, it would have the effect of "thinning the floor," inasmuch as noblemen and others could not "go through them." To be sure, there would remain another alternative: they might go again and get steps from their French dancing-masters; but that alternative would be a troublesome one, and the class of persons who frequent Almack’s like to be put to as little trouble as possible. The waltz, therefore, though so severely condemned by every person of moral feeling, and even by persons— witness Lord Byron—whose notions of morality are by no means strict, is the favourite dance at Almack’s.

James Grant, The Great Metropolis 1837

Almack's Balls ... generally commence in February and terminate in June. Admission to them is by tickets, obtainable only of the lady patronesses, of whom Mr. Willis, of the Thatched House Tavern, St. James's Street, has a list.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

Almack's Balls - These truly select and elegant assemblies are held every Wednesday during the season at Willis's Rooms, King Street, St. James's Square, and are very numerously and fashionably attended. Willis's Rooms are a noble suite of apartments, capable of containing nearly 1,000 persons; they consist of a noble ball-room, card, and supper-rooms, that upon these occasions are all brilliantly lighted, and elegantly decorated. Almack's Balls are under the superintendence and direction of several ladies of distinction, styled Lady Patronesses; and no person is admitted but by their permission. This, of course, makes the admission extremely difficult, but at the same time renders the company very select. At Willis's Rooms, concerts, balls, and public dinners take place; but none of these have any connexion with Almack's.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844