Regency Confessor: Rusticus Returns (part two)

The report on Rusticus’ return to Regency Society continued upon his arrival at the second party to which he’d been invited. This was a celebration of a young matron’s birthday, and invitees were obliged to offer natal congratulations in the form of a literary device.

The English Winter Carriage Costume, from the Magazine's March 1818 edition: "round dress of fine cambric muslin, superbly embroidered round the border in three distinct rows. Pelisse of rich Tobine silk striped, of Christmas holly-berry colour, and bright grass green, trimmed round collar, cuffs and down the front with very broad swansdown."

The English Winter Carriage Costume, from the Magazine’s March 1818 edition: “round dress of fine cambric muslin, superbly embroidered round the border in three distinct rows. Pelisse of rich Tobine silk striped, of Christmas holly-berry colour, and bright grass green, trimmed round collar, cuffs and down the front with very broad swansdown.”

One of those in attendance was a celebrated poet, but ostensibly complaining of the head-ache, his offering only served to confirm (in the opinion of our hero) that the poor man might indeed be suffering from “a disorder in his brain.”

Emboldened by his fellow party-goer’s failing, Rusticus eagerly offered his own ditty, which was based upon a polonaise taken from the comic opera The Cabinet, popular at the time. Despite careful preparation of the selection:

“There were three verses; and I declare I knew not of one indecorous word or meaning they contained; but such is the delicacy of modern ears, and the quickness of modern conceptions, that at the first verse the ladies blushed up to their eyes, at the second the mammas began to shrug their shoulders and find their seats uneasy, and at the third there was not a papa but what turned his back upon me.”

— from the Listener’s “A Second Letter from Rusticus,” La Belle Assemblee, November 1816

Somehow, he’d made a mull of it.

Better received at the party was a singular young lady who’d been implored to Catalanize to the company–that is, to sing in the style of the great opera singer of the time, Madame Catalani. Apparently, opera wasn’t objectionable to the company, just the person who performed it.

Rusticus, still smarting from being rebuffed, acidly noted:

“..the cruel virtuoso deprived us of the pleasure of hearing any more than two or three notes…(it seems) a young person is not to learn to sing to be called upon every occasion; formerly, when they had only one singing master, they were more obliging; now they have ten music-masters, and never sing when they are first asked.”

Presently a waltz played and Rusticus was determined to dance. He chose a lady who demonstrated some skill, but instead of becoming her dance partner, he became her “victim,” managing to bump into every other couple in the room and knock over a group of spectators standing by, which led him to become “totally disconcerted.”

By now it was two in the morning. Taking an embarrassed leave from the birthday party, Rusticus went to a faro-party being given by an older female relative. Unfortunately, he arrived only in time to discover a “German Baron” had made off with all the winnings, which put all the ladies sadly out of countenance. Too late to retreat, Rusticus found himself obliged to escort home one “pretty gambler” who’d lost her last shilling and was consequently without a feather to fly. This task was made miserable for two reasons–the lady was in high ill-humor for having lost all her money and the manner of conveyance was another hackney carriage, just as wretchedly slow as the last one.

“Now what have I gained by my journey to town but fatigue and crosses? Ah! my dear friend, say no more against the comforts of my dear fire-side in the country, where I can enjoy my Homer and my Plutarch without molestation.”

Wasn’t it Homer who said, “it is equally offensive to speed a guest who would like to stay and to detain one who is anxious to leave..”?

London need not weep for Rusticus.