So…yesterday we had to pretend that Lady Russell was a great dancer and enjoyed spending winter evenings at the Ball-Room at the Upper Rooms. It was fun though….I do hope you agree.
Today, we do not have to pretend for we know that she attended a concert at the Upper Rooms in Persuasion,and so would have visited the Tea Room which was where the subscription concerts were held. But before we get there we should really take a look at the Card Room or Great Octagon as it was known which separates the Ball Room from the Tea Room.
In the film of Persuasion (1995) written by Nick Drear, this ,below, the Small Octagon or Octagon Anti-chamber, was where the Elliot’s stood waiting for Lady Dalrymple and her daughter and where Anne had the unexpected opportunity of meeting Captain Wentworth for a deliciously revealing conversation.
It was more likely that this meeting took place in the Octagon shown below.
When the Upper Assembly Rooms were first opened in 1771, this was used as the card room. A card room where gambling took place was one of the necessary rooms in a suite of Assembly Rooms, for gambling by those not wishing to dance was entirely acceptable practise. Indeed Mr Allen retires to play cards,after he has safely deposited Mrs Allen and Catherine Morland at the Ballroom in Chapter 2 of Northanger Abbey. A separate card room was added to this room in 1777.
The Octagon was again set out for a wedding when I visited .It would be in this room that the actual wedding was performed. A quite spectacular setting, you must admit.
The chandelier in this room was made up of the remnants of the discarded chandeliers that used to hang in the Ball Room and were made by Jonathan Collett. It is very beautiful, and it is a wonder that they were able to make something so beautiful out of wrecked pieces!
The portrait that dominates this room is one by Thomas Gainsborough of Captain William Wade . He was the first Master of Ceremonies of the Upper Rooms. He had to quit his post in 1777 after he was involved in
an affair of gallantry
as Pierce Egan in Walk’s Though Bath (1819) coyly describes it.
He had also been the Master of Ceremonies at Brighton since 1767 .After quitting Bath in 1777 he retired to Brighton where he was Master of Ceremonies till he died in 1809. Mr James King whom we know as the Master of Ceremonies at the Lower Rooms, indeed, as the very gentleman who effected the successful introduction of Henry Tilney to Miss Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey, became the Master of Ceremonies at the upper Rooms in 1805 until his death at Cheltenham in 1816.
From the Octagon we can progress directly into the Tea Room. It was in this room that refreshments were served during Assemblies and where Public Breakfasts were taken. And it was also where the subscription concerts were held.
The three magnificent chandeliers in this room are the originals made by William Parker, supplier of chandeliers to the Prince of Wales at Carlton House.
This room is one of my most favourite rooms in the country. I love its restrained stone decoration.
And the gallery with its Corinthian Columns that run the length of the room,with the swags of flowers and fruit decorating the space in a quiet but very elegant way.
Again my photographs do not do justice to these wonderful chandeliers.They fail to capture the prisms of light that dart from the crystal…
The concerts in this room were first under the direction of Thomas Linley,shown below in a portrait painted by his friend, Thomas Gainsborough.
He was the father of the soprano Elizabeth Linley, seen here with her sister, again in a portrait by Gainsborough( she is on the left)
She of course was infamous for marrying teh playwright Sheridan after a scandalous elopement. Thomas Linley Junior known as the English Mozart,also performed here
seen here portrayed in a portrait by Gainsborough, above,and who perished in an untimely manner at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire in 1778.
From 1777 the Italian castrato and composer,Venanzio Rauzzini , below,was the director of the concerts. He was of course the man for whom Mozart wrote Exultate Jubilate.
In the Winter he lived in Bath in a town house Number 13 Gay Street, but in the summer he lived at nearby Widecombe and many famous musicians and composers were tempted to come to Bath to collaborate and perform with him. Possibly the most famous visitor was Joseph Haydn who on his visit in 1794 even wrote a canon in praise of Rauzzini’s deceased dog,Turk- “Turk was a faithful Dog“- while he was staying at Widecombe with the composer.
Here is an example of his work- a Sonata- Duetto, perfomred on a period instrument:
He died at his home in Gay Street, on 8 April 1810, while preparing for the Bath June music festival. Four days later the Bath Chronicle wrote:
In private life few men were more esteemed; none more generally beloved. A polished suavity of manners, a mild and cheerful disposition, and a copious fund of general and polite information, rendered him an attractive and agreeable companion. … In Mr. Rauzzini, this city has sustained a public loss.
He was buried in Bath Abbey, where there is a memorial to him erected by ‘his affectionate Pupils Anna Selina Storace and John Braham’.
Here is a copy of a programme for a subscription concert held in 1798. If you enlarge it by clicking on it you can see that the lyrics of the arias are clearly printed on the programme sheet,and this explains why Anne Elliot was able to translate lyrics at the behest of Mr Elliot and Miss Carteret much to Captain Wentworth’s annoyance.
And this concludes Lady Russell’s Winter Pleasures at the Upper Rooms..next, the Pump Room.