Saturday, July 24, 2021

Two Hundred and Twenty-Five Years Ago

I was browsing through a 1796 issue of Bell's Weekly Messenger this past week. Suddenly I realized that it was virtually the same week as I was currently experiencing -- July 17 to July 24. But this newspaper was two hundred and twenty-five years old.

Jane Austen was twenty that summer and may have perused this copy of Bell's journal. So I thought you might be interested to learn what she was reading and what was happening in the summer of 1796 in England.

Fashions were classical, softly draped, often white, and sometimes trained.

Gallery of Fashion

Journal für Fabrik, Manufaktur, Handlung und Mode

           Journal für Fabrik, Manufaktur, Handlung und Mode 1796

These styles were worn by the 'Fashionables' whose activities were of interest in Bell's.

Princess Elizabeth's Drawings - As they are now before the public, it is but common justice to notice them with praise. They are delicate and tasteful.

The Bishop of Rochester is now enjoying the fine air and charming prospects of Bromley in Kent.

The picture of the  Duke of Wurtemberg, who is to marry the Princess Royal, is arrived. The original is very shortly expected.

The Westminster regiment still remains without a Colonel, no successor having appointed to the disgraced Col. Cawthorn.

There was always news from the Court:

The King has appointed the period of eight weeks to be the term of the Royal residence at Weymouth for the approaching bathing season.

Lord Gwider was at Court, and received the appointment of Master of the Horse to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

The country seemed always at war, so there was considerable army news in the paper but of course with the speed, or lack thereof, of communication it was all 'old news' and so does not really pertain to our week. The Naval Intelligence was likewise lacking in immediacy but the paper listed:

Ships Take by the French
  - The Hope, Colburn, from Bristol to Newfoundland, is taken by the French.
  - The Vine, Cutton, from Cork to the West Indies, was taken...and is carried to Gaudalope.

Entertainment was of much more interest to the general public it seemed for Bell's was full of diverting details from London and the counties:

On Monday the Annual Cup given by the Proprietors of Vauxhall Gardens, was sailed for by the pleasure-boats, which started from a boat moored off Blackfriars Bridge, went round another near Putney Bridge, and returned to a barge moored off Vauxhall.


At the late Poney Races, at Messing Maypole, there was very sharp racing, and a number of bye-races. Mr. Middleton's poney the silver cup and Mrs. Barnes's, of Heybridge, the silver punch ladle.

Dorsetshire, Shaftesbury, July 11

A few nights since, as Shatford's Company of Comedians were playing to a crowded house, about the end of the second act, the whole of the gallery (escept for the beam) gave way, with every soul in it, and fell upon the audience in the pit; and wonderfully not a single person was killed, or limb broken, although there were scarce two planks left together.

Brighton it seemed was boring:

Sussex, Brighton, July 11
The late heavy rains have rendered this place more insipid than ever. There is a vast concourse of visitors here for this time of the year; but they unfortunately have not vivacity or spirit. There were seven people present at the opening of the first Ball.

And the news from Monmouthshire was pedestrian, at best:

Chepstow Bridge is at length complete repaired, and passable, etc.

Theatricals were as always a rich source of news:

The Hay Market Theatre has hitherto experienced very flattering success, and it has hitherto deserved it.

Ranelagh has not had altogether a very successful season, owing to the rapid changes of the weather.

The Fireworks of Nature on Friday evening spoiled the Fireworks of Ranelagh --the company, however, was numerous, although the lightning drove most of the ladies home. 

The summer of 1796 was a golden time, it seemed, and Bell's Weekly Messenger waxed poetic:

Never in the memoirs of man, was there a year in which plenty reared her fair front, or diffused her golden blessings with a more unsparing hand that the present; grain of every species, herbage, kitchen vegetables, and every article of food, both for man and beast, are in a state of great forwardness, and give indications of any early and superabundant harvest.

The auguries were good for comfortable winter. I hope it worked out well.

'Til next time,