Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dancing Shoes for the Regency Period

We have an 1813 ball coming up soon, and new dancers ask what they should do about shoes. Our rule of thumb is that if you don't have exact historical reproductions, wear something that is unobtrusive.

Our men usually wear black oxford shoes with leather soles. They could be made for dancing, or made for dress. If you choose to wear dress oxfords, make sure that they are not heavy; some current styles have very thick and heavy soles. Dance oxfords look like this:


My favorite shoe has a ballet upper and leather sole. Sometimes you can't find a completely flat sole, but end up with a classic ballet sole, that doesn't cover the entire bottom of the foot. This is less comfortable, but still acceptable. You can also find shoes of this style at Payless and other shoe stores. Just make sure that the soles are not too slick (plastic) or too sticky (rubber). Ballet flats look like this:

There is a new shoe being sold by The American Duchess that has many of the features of an early nineteenth century shoe. It looks like this:


Of course, the best sort of dancing shoes for early nineteenth century wear are in museums. Here is a selection of shoes from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Blue Slippers 1790-99
Blue Slippers 1795-1810
Tan and Black Slippers 1812

Blue Slippers 1815-20


White Slippers 1805-15
Men's shoes 1800-1850


I included a photo of men's shoes that look like dance oxfords to show that the dance oxfords are a reasonable choice. In this period, men would be more likely to wear pumps for dancing. Pumps are low cut, like the ladies' slippers above. I haven't found a photo of men's pumps from the right time period.


This picture of shoes in a museum in Australia is identified as women's shoes, but I wonder if they are men's dress shoes.

Shoes 1780-1810


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Frozen Canaries




It's really cold this week, and inaugural balls are on my mind, so I had to take a look at Ulysses S. Grant's 1873 inaugural ball. I promise I'm not really this obsessed with frozen things. From this account it is not clear whether the canaries survived the cold or not. The New York Times article published the day after the ball mentions the cold, and people keeping their coats on, and the popularity of warm drinks, but doesn't say anything about canaries.

The organizers of the ball were undoubtedly expecting seasonable late March weather, but what they got was record cold. There is not much you can do to heat a large temporary structure when the thermometer reads 4 degrees Fahrenheit.


Well, our latest brought discomfort, and discomfiture of another sort. Neither money, time nor labor were stinted in this leviathan, that still lifts up its broken and propped up back in Judiciary square. The building was 350 feet long. The ball-room 300 by 100 feet. All this was temporary, built of light boards, lined with lighter muslin. You might as well have attempted to have warmed Pennsylvania Avenue as such a place on such a night.

Twenty-four hours before the ball the wind-devils went at it. If a host from the pit had received full power to move and dismember it, it could scarcely look more forlorn than it did one Monday morning. They had sat on its spine in one place till it curved in, punched it up in another till it was hunchbacked. They had inflated its sides till they swelled out like an inflated balloon, while the air was black with the tar-rags, seaming its roof, which flying imps were carrying up to high heaven.

No less the official report said of the inside: "The mighty American Eagle spreads his wings above the President's platform, He has suspended, from his pinions, streamers one hundred feet in length, caught up on either side by coats of arms. The circumference of this vast design is one hundred and eighty feet. The President's reception platform is sixty feet long, and thirty feet wide. Twelve pilasters support alternate gold-figured, red and blue stands, on which are pots of blooming flowers. The platform and steps are richly carpeted. In the rear of the balcony, are immense festoons of flags, banners, shields, radiating from a huge illuminated star of gas-lights."

What were all those white and rosy walls of cambric, to the all-pervading polar wave that froze sailors' fingers, and struck West Point Cadets to the pavements, in congestive chills, at noonday? Why, they were nothing but an immense sieve, to strain that same polar wave through on to the persons of delicate (?) women, who, without money, and without price, for the sake of dubious admiration and commend, in promiscuous assemblies, outvie Lydia Thompson in paucity of attire.

But the ball. My intention was to say, that the President was so near frozen in the day-time, he was not sufficiently thawed out to appear under that spreading eagle, until half-past eleven o'clock, when the north wind swooped in from behind, and he congealed again immediately. The President's platform was at the north end, and all the muslin splendors of the presidential dressing and waiting-room could not, and did not, warm that polar wave.

The thousands of canary-birds perched aloft, who were expected to burst into simultaneous song at the sight of him, and to trill innumerable preludes in honor of Miss Nelly, instead, poor wretches, had, one and all, gone to bed, with their toes tucked in their feathers, and their bills buried in their breasts, in dumb effort to keep them from freezing. Not a canary-bird sang. No, they were as paralyzed with cold as the bipeds below.

On the presidential platform, the President and Mrs. Grant sat, the central figures. A little in the rear, sat Mrs. Fish—stately, lovely, and serene as ever; and just behind her, the Secretary of State. Next, were Mrs. Boutwell and Miss Boutwell, and the Secretary of the Treasury; then came, dream-like, Mrs. Creswell, handsome Mrs. Williams, and motherly Mrs. Delano. Ellen Grant stood beside her mother, and Edith Fish hovered beside her's—both winsome and unaffected girls, though the girlish grace of the latter shows, already, the line intellectual quality of her mother. The Governor of the District, with his wife and daughter, and numerous other officials, filled the platform.

Back of the Cabinet stood the Foreign Ministers, bereft of their court attire, but glittering with decorations. Tall Lady Thornton bent like a reed in the blast; and Madame Flores, the beautiful young wife of the Minister from Equador, glowed in her warm rich beauty, even at zero. Alas! that all those wondrous tints of blue and gold, of royal purple and emerald, of lavender and rose, all the gleam of those diamonds, all the show of necks and arms, which was to have made the glory of this "court circle," alas! that they were all held in eclipse, by layers on layers of wrappings, till, at a little distance, the whole platform seemed to be filled with a crowd of animated mummies, set upright, whose motions were as spasmodic and jerky as those of Mrs. Jarley's wax works.

It was very sensible—the only refuge from certain death—that all those necks and arms, diamonds, pearls, velvets and satins, should hide away under ermine capes, cloaks and shawls; but, lumped in aggregate, they did not make a pretty picture (the wraps, I mean). Indeed, the polar wave submerged the presidential platform, and made anything but a picturesque success. And how unlucky, when for the first time in the history of inauguration balls, there was a "cubby" for every hat and wrap, that every man and woman should be obliged to keep them on.

Mary Clemmer, Ten Years in Washington: Life and Scenes in the National Capital, as a Woman Sees Them, Hartford, CT:A. D. Worthington & co., 1873 p. 280-283.)





Saturday, January 26, 2013

Six Thousand People Clamoring for their Clothes!


Arriving at Grant's first inaugural ball

This account of Ulysses S. Grant's 1869 inaugural ball comes from the reminiscences of Mary Clemmer, published in 1873, just after Grant's second inaugural ball. Consider that Clemmer might have exaggerated the discomforts, to make the book that much more interesting.

Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural ball took place in a temporary structure, and was probably quite comfortable given the early spring weather, the crowd of partygoers and the amount of dancing. Lincoln's second inaugural ball in 1865, was near the end of a long, grinding war, and it took place in the model room of the U.S. Patent Office. It probably did not involve as many guests or as much dancing as Lincoln's first.

President Grant's first inaugural ball was held in the Treasury building. From this account, it doesn't seem to have been a big enough space for the attendees. It seems that the crush of attendees and the lack of dancing led to the decision to erect a temporary structure for Grant's second inaugural ball.


UNTOLD time, and trouble, and sixty thousand dollars were expended on the last inauguration ball building, and yet there was something the matter with the inaugural ball. There is always something the matter with every inauguration ball.

When I wish to think of a spot especially suggestive of torments, I think of an inauguration ball. There was the one before the last, held in the Treasury Building. The air throughout the entire building was perforated with a fine dust ground till you felt that you were taking in with every breath a myriad homoeopathic doses of desiccated grindstone. The agonies of that ball can never be written. There are mortals dead in their grave because of it. There are mortals who still curse, and swear, and sigh at the thought of it. There are diamonds, and pearls, and precious garments that are not to their owners because of it.

The scenes in those cloak and hat rooms can never be forgotten by any who witnessed them. The colored messengers, called from their posts in the Treasury to do duty in these rooms, received hats and wraps with perfect facility, and tucked them in loop-holes as it happened. But to give them back, each to its owner, that was impossible. Not half of them could read numbers, and those who could soon grew bewildered, overpowered, ill-tempered and impertinent under the hosts that advanced upon them for cloaks and hats.

Picture it! Six or more thousand people clamoring for their clothes! In the end they were all tumbled out "promiscuous” on the floor. Then came the siege! Few seized their own, but many snatched other people's garments—anything, something, to protect them from the pitiless morning, whose wind came down like the bite of death. Delicate women, too sensitive to take the property of others, crouched in corners, and wept on window ledges; and there the daylight found them.

Carriages, also, had fled out of the scourging blast, and the men and women who emerged from the marble halls, with very little to wear, found that they must "foot it" to their habitations. One gentleman walked to Capitol Hill, nearly two miles, in dancing pumps and bare-headed; another performed the same exploit, wrapped in a lady's sontag.

Poor Horace Greeley, after expending his wrath on the stairs and cursing Washington anew as a place that should be immediately blotted out of the universe, strode to his hotel hatless. The next day and the next week were consumed by people searching for their lost clothes, and General Chipman says that he still receives letters demanding articles lost at that inauguration ball.

Mary Clemmer, Ten Years in Washington: Life and Scenes in the National Capital, as a Woman Sees Them, Hartford, Ct : A. D. Worthington & co., 1873 p. 279-280.)





Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Girl Who is Dancing Needs Many Dresses


Early arrivals at an 1887 ball
Too many dresses are a mistake, even for an opulent woman. They get out of fashion, and excepting for a girl going out to many balls they are entirely unnecessary. A girl who is dancing needs to be perpetually renewed, for she should be always fresh, and the "wear and tear" of the cotillion is enormous. There is nothing so poor as a dirty, faded, and patched-up ball-dress; the dancer had better stay at home than wear such. (Mrs. John Sherwood, Manners and Social Usages, New and enlarged edition, New York: Harper & Brothers. 1887. p. 171-172.)



Let's take a look at late 1880s ball gowns. The illustration at the top shows girls who are ready to dance. I do not believe that they are wearing trains, though it is hard to be certain with the style of the time. Below are some dresses that the Metropolitan Museum of Art calls ball gowns, but which, given the trains, I would call reception gowns. I particularly love the first one, because it shows how distinctive the  silhouette is: straight and tight from the front, full and trailing from the side.







Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Abraham Lincoln's 1861 Inaugural Ball

Fashions worn at Lincoln's first inaugural ball 1861

Here's a little more information about Abraham Lincoln's first Inaugural Ball. The temporary building which was created for the occasion was big enough to hold 3,000 people. It was expected to be torn down after the ball, but it was still standing a month later when it was used to hold soldiers. The hall was decorated with muslin, presumably thin fabric used as bunting. I had speculated that there wouldn't be much dancing in the crush of an inaugural ball, but this article implies that dancing was high on the list of priorities.



INAUGURATION DAY.; A Brief Resume of its Happenings 
and a Briefer Account of the Highly Successful Inauguration Ball.
The Inauguration Ball was a success, and not only a success, but a complete success. It was a victory achieved by a few hard-working and reliable Republicans over caste, prejudice and scoffings on one side, and fear, forebodings and disinclination on the other. A large hall, capable of accommodating say three thousand people, was erected especially for the purpose, connecting conveniently with the City Hall, whose Committee-rooms and Council-chambers were of great service for dressing-apartments and sundry other domestic purposes. The hall, which was shaped like a parallelogram, was beautifully decorated with red and white muslin, while around the walls were a number of shields, bearing the arms of the United States. A ball is a ball, and but little can be said of one that is not equally true of another, save the mentioning of the personnel thereof, and a description of toilettes, elegant and rare, for the delight of the ladies.

At 5 o'clock in the morning, after a hard day's work and an evening of telegraphing, I do not propose at any extended length to enter upon the details of the affair; but as the chief interest of the occasion centered upon Mr. and Mrs. LINCOLN, and a few of their friends, I will give a short account of them and their appearance.

The hall was well filled by 11 o'clock with dancers impatient for the signal to commence "the mazy," but as Mr. LINCOLN had not yet arrived, it was not considered etiquette to begin A little while longer and the youngsters impatient for the past-time, started the band and at it they went. Soon, however, it was noised about that the party had arrived. Dancing was for a moment suspended, and all eyes turned in the direction of the door. Presently the President appeared, leaning on the arms of Vice-President HAMLIN and Senator ANTHONY, of Rhode Island. His entrance was, of course, the signal for applause, and the band struck up "Hail Columbia." Behind the President came a couple, the sight of whom was singular and yet eminently gratifying; singular, because so wholly unexpected, and gratifying, because it was an indication of the beginning of an era of good feeling.

The parties were Mrs. LINCOLN and Senator DOUGLAS. Mrs. LINCOLN appeared remarkably well; she wore a very tasteful and becoming head-dress, and a low-necked lavender silk, (I think,) of exquisite shade, perfect fit, and evident richness. Her lace was point, her jewelry was the simple diamond, and her attire such as commended itself to the good taste, the sense of propriety and the love of the beautiful of every person in the room. It was a general remark that LINCOLN was an infinitely better-looking man than he was represented, and that Mrs. LINCOLN was evidently a lady of refinement, of tact and of taste.

Of the ladies who were with her, Miss EDWARDS, of Springfield, was the most noticeable. She dressed with great elegance and equal simplicity. -- what the name of the material is, I do not pretend to say or know. It was very thin, gauzy and white, looked as if it would burn very easily, and had a long row of beautiful bouquets down the front of it. That's not a very technical description of a lady's ball-dress, but it may answer every purpose just as well.

Mrs. BAKER was also dressed very elegantly. She wore a white silk, in which were embroidered flowers of exquisite color. She wore a head-dress to match, and looked well.

Mrs. SERGWICK and Miss BEAN, of New-York; Miss WILLIAMS and Miss CAMERON, of Pennsylvania; Miss CHASE, of Ohio; Miss DIXON, of Connecticut, and Miss BLAIR, of Maryland, were also "bright, particular stars." There were many others there deserving of notice, but time forbids.

They danced, talked, flirted, chatted, supped most bounteously, had a splendid time, and all that sort of thing, affording a series of items unrivaled for sketches, but as the cars are soon to go, I must close by stating that this Inauguration Ball is considered to have been one of the pleasantest and most enjoyable of any ever given in this good City of Washington. (The New York Times, March 6, 1861.) 

Here is the dance card for the evening, from the Library of Congress. It looks like rather a lot of dancing, doesn't it? There is a march at the beginning of the evening, then a pattern of 7 repetitions, each consisting of a quadrille, a lancers and some combination of turning dances, with another quadrille and a waltz and galop at the end. We can't be sure how long it took to dance through the program but, according to the correspondent, they began around 11 pm and were still dancing at 3 am.

Dance Card from Lincoln's first inaugural ball 1861







Saturday, January 19, 2013

Inaugural Balls


It's the weekend of the inauguration, so let's look at some inaugural balls. We've already seen Calvin Coolidge's ball in 1925. Here are a few more. I think it's typical for them to be really crowded. Dancing was probably much less important than being seen. The first two (1857 and 1861) took place in temporary structures, with wood floors and walls. The third (1865) was in a government building.

Inaugural ball for James Buchanan, March 1857




 
Inaugural ball for Lincoln, 1861
Second inaugural ball for Lincoln, 1865


Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Charleston


And now for something completely different, the Charleston.

Charleston (1925) by German photographer, Else Ernestine Neuländer-Simon





Ad from April 1926 Popular Science Magazine

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

An 1806 Collection of Waltzes


Did you see that engraving of three couples dancing the waltz in 1806? Isn't it wonderful? It was the frontispiece of A Selection of the Most Admired and Original German Waltzes, by Edward Jones, published in 1806.

This book was on exhibit as part of: God Save the King: Music from the British Royal Court, 1770 – 1837, an exhibition at Beinecke Library, Yale University, October 1 – December 10, 2010,  but thanks to their wonderful blog, we can still experience it.


To see the book as it appeared in the exhibit go here and look at the third photo down. You can enlarge the photo and see the book in great detail.

If you want to read the book (it's mostly music) go here and you'll be able to look at all the pages.

Frontispiece
Title Page

Please notice that the book is dedicated to another famous Charlotte.


Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Wales

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Charlotte and Werther in Verse




MYNHEER WERTER’S FIRST INTERVIEW WITH CHARLOTTE, VERSIFIED.
WERTER, loquitur.
Having promised to call,
In my way to the ball,
For Miss Charlotte, the Bailly of Walheim's fair daughter,
I went, unawares,
Down the back-kitchen stairs,
And 'twas thus the sweet soul was employed when I caught her:
Like cats in a gutter
For thick bread and butter
Six children were squeaking around her; while she
With such grace cut each slice,
That I found in a trice
She had cut a large slice from the heart of poor me!

She blush'd with confusion,
(I vow she'd no rouge on),
And swore 'twas a bore in that trim to be found:
'Twas shocking! 'twas frightful!
I vow'd 'twas delightful—
I bow’d, and she curtsied quite down to the ground.
Such beauty! such grace!
Such a figure and face!
Such a tongue too! she chatter'd, nineteen to the dozen,
About poets, and cooks,
Pictures, housemaids, and books,
And her uncles and aunts, and her ninety-ninth cousin!
We soon reach'd the ball-room,
('Twas rather a small room)
But, oh! the orchestra was simple and modest!
Two fiddles, one fife!
'Twas all spirit and life,
Though the dancers, Lord help 'em! were some of the oddest.
"Hands across ma'am"—"You're out, sir"—
"Mind what you're about, sir."
Charlotte whisper'd: "Just wait till we get to the bottom,—
"We're the best of the party,
"Then, Werter, my hearty,
"We'll waltz and astonish the natives, 'od rot 'em."
We waltz! and behold her,
Her head on my shoulder,
Cheeks meeting, eyes greeting, hearts beating, and thus
I twist her and twirl her,
And whisk her and whirl her—
We whirl round the room till the room whirls round us!
Nor seeing, nor hearing,
The lights disappearing,
Abandon'd to all the soft charms of the waltz, sir,
Oh ! had you a wife,
Let her waltz all her life,
But be sure you waltz with her yourself—mind, that's all, sir'!

An eighteenth century allemande
An early nineteenth century allemande



How it thunder'd and lighten'd;
The ladies were frighten'd,
And thought it a sin to dance jigs in bad weather:
Said Charlotte, "I wonder
They're frighten'd at thunder!
But since they wo'nt dance, we'll play forfeits together.'''
Next, we stole to the casement.
Where, mute with amazement,
We stared at the moon a full hour by a stop-clock!
But, at length, when she spoke,
'Twas the finishing stroke
To the great work of love, though she merely said—"Klopstock!"*

* Should any objection be taken to the rhyme, or rather, the no-rhyme of Stopclock and Klopstock, it is requested that it may be overlooked in favour of the reason. Klopstock is the identical name pronounced by Charlotte, for which no other could, with propriety be substituted. Had the name been Klopstick we might have contrived to make it jingle with mopstick ; but Klopstock—the thing is impossible.
(The Athenaeum; or the Spirit of the English Magazines, vol. 4, second series October-April 1825-26 Boston : John Cotton, p. 446-447)

I'm glad that the author of this poem was as struck as I by the single word that Charlotte used to describe her feelings and the growing sympathy between her and Werther. Klopstock was a German poet who wrote something that apparently described exactly what Charlotte was experiencing. Werther understood completely. For those of us in the dark, the sound of the name is at complete odds with the rest of the scene.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Charlotte and Young Werther

A mid-nineteenth century painting of Charlotte and Werther

I simply couldn't resist one more mention of a famous Charlotte who had something to do with dancing. If you haven't read The Sorrows of Young Werther, you probably should. Written by Johann Wolfgang Goethe in 1774, this short book was of the primary texts of the 19th century romantic movement. It was also the Catcher in the Rye of its day. Just like Catcher, you will either love it or hate it. Many young people felt that it spoke to their souls. Many older people probably thought that the young protagonist needed professional help.

Werther (sometimes translated as Werter) falls in love with Charlotte even though he has been warned that she is engaged to a good man. He pursues a friendship with her and her husband even though his heart is breaking. He finally decides that only his suicide can release Charlotte and Albert from the entanglement of his love.

The book inspired Werther-Fieber, with symptoms that included a fashion trend for blue coats and buff waistcoats "in the English fashion", possible copycat suicides and countless girls weeping over the book.


Young girls reading Werther in 1870.

Werther meets Charlotte as he and companions pick her up on the way to a ball. His first glimpse of her is as she feeds her little brothers and sisters a snack and says goodbye to them.

As I entered the apartment I saw six children, the eldest of which was but eleven years old, all jumping round a young woman, very elegantly shaped, and dressed in a plain white gown with pink ribands. She had a brown loaf in her hand, and was cutting slices of bread and butter, which she distributed in a graceful and affectionate manner to the children, according to their age and appetite.

Werther falls more than a little in love with Charlotte in the carriage on the way to the ball. They enter the ballroom. Notice that the first dances of the ball are minuets, an older classic dance. Then they dance English country dances, which would be newer and more fashionable. After the second country dance, there is an allemande followed by a waltz. Werther dances the allemande with Charlotte and they make various patterns with their arms. This makes the allemande sound very much like the Austrian landler. Then they dance the waltz. Goethe doesn't give many details about this early waltz; he doesn't even mention whether it is counted in three, but the details he does mention, the sense of flying, the way the rest of the world fades away, are the emotional hallmarks of the dance.

They began with minuets. I took out one lady after another, and exactly those who were the most disagreeable could not bring themselves to leave off. Charlotte and her partner began an  English country dance. Imagine my delight when they came to do the figure with us. You should see Charlotte: she seems to dance with all her heart and soul, and as if she was born for nothing else; her figure is all elegance, lightness, and grace. 

I asked her to dance the second country dance with me; she was engaged, but promised herself to me for the third; telling me at the same time, with the most agreeable freedom, that she was very fond of allemandes. "It is the custom here," said she," for every couple to dance the allemandes together; but my partner will be delighted if I save him the trouble, for he does the walse very ill: I observe the lady you dance with is in the same situation. I am sure by your English country dances that you must do the walse very well yourself; so that if it is agreeable to you to dance the allemandes with me, do you propose it to my partner; I will propose it to your's." We went to settle this affair; and it was agreed that during the allemandes, Charlotte's partner should attend upon mine.

We began; and at first amused ourselves with making every possible turn with our arms. How graceful and animated all her motions! When the walse commenced, all the couples, which were hurling round, at first jostled against each other. We very judiciously kept aloof till the awkward and clumsy had withdrawn: when we joined in, there were but two couples left. I never in my life was so active; I was more than mortal. To hold in my arms the most lovely of women, to fly with her like the wind, and lose sight of every other object !—But I own to you, I then determined, that the woman I loved, and to whom I had pretensions, should never do the walse with any other man.—You will understand this.

(Have you noticed that Werther is a little self-centered?)

Rowlandson illustration of the waltz from 1806. The caption refers to the Sorrows of Werter.
We took a few turns in the room to recover our breath; and then Charlotte sat down, and I brought her a few dices of lemon, all indeed that were left, which I stole from those who were making the negus: she eat some with sugar, and seemed to be refreshed by them; but I was obliged in politeness to offer them to the lady who sat next Charlotte, and she very injudiciously took some.

(Have you noticed that Werther is a lot self-centered?)

We were the second couple in the third country dance. As we were going down (and heaven knows with what ecstacy I looked at her arms, and her eyes which bore the impression of a natural and lively pleasure) a lady of a certain age, whose agreeable countenance had struck me at first sight, looked at Charlotte, and smiled; then held up her finger in a threatening attitude, and in a very significant tone of voice said, "Albert! Albert!"
"Who is this Albert?" said I to Charlotte, "if it is not impertinent?" She was going to answer, when we were obliged to separate for hands six round at bottom ; and in crossing over I thought I perceived that she looked pensive. "Why would I conceal it from you? said she, when she gave me her hand to lead out of sides; Albert is a worthy man to whom I am engaged.' I had been told this before by the ladies in the coach, but I had not then seen Charlotte; I did not know her value. I seemed to hear it for the first time. I was distressed, confused, wrong in the figure, and put every body out; and Charlotte, by pushing one and pulling another, with great difficulty set us right again.

(Werther is self-centered. Charlotte is self-confident and very competent. She's not going to let a country dance fall apart around her.)


 Whilst we were dancing, the lightning, which had for some time been seen in the horizon, and which I had declared to be only summer-lightning, and proceeding entirely from heat, became much more violent, and the thunder was heard through all the noise of the fiddles. Three ladies run out of the set; their partners followed; the confusion became general; and the music stopped. When any distress or terror comes upon us in a scene of amusement, it has a stronger effect on our minds, either because the contrast makes us feel it more keenly: or rather, perhaps, because our senses being open to impressions of all kinds, the shock is more forcibly and quickly perceived. This circumstance may account in some measure for the extraordinary contortions and shrieks of the ladies.

One of the most courageous sat down with her back to the window and stopped her ears; another knelt -down before her, and hid her face in her lap; a third shoved herself between them and embraced her little sister, shedding at the same time a torrent of tears: some insisted upon going home; others, still more distressed, did not attend to their indiscreet partners, who were stealing from their lips those sighs that were addressed to heaven. Some of the gentlemen went down stairs to drink a bottle quietly; and the rest of the company very willingly followed the mistress of the house, who had the good sense to conduct us to a room darkened by close window-shutters. As soon as we came into it, Charlotte drew the chairs round, made us sit down in a ring, and was eager to begin some little play. 

(Yet again, Charlotte takes charge.)

More than one of our belles drew up and looked prim, in hopes of some agreeable consequences from the forfeits. "Let us play at counting," said Charlotte. "Observe, 1 am to go from right to left; you are to count one after the other as you sit, and count fast: whoever stops or mistakes is to have a box on the the ear, and so on till we have counted to a thousand." It was pleasant to see her go round with her hand up. "One," says the first, "two," the second, " three," the third, and so on, till Charlotte went faster and faster. One then mistook; instantly a box on the ear: the next laughed instead of saying the following number—another box on the ear; and still faster and faster.

I had two for my share; and fancied they were harder than the rest, and was much delighted. A general confusion and laughter put an end to the play, long before we got to a thousand. The storm ceased; the company formed into little parties;. Charlotte returned to the assembly room, and I followed her. As we were going, she said, " The blows I inflicted made them forget their apprehensions: I myself was as much afraid as any body; but by affecting courage to keep up the spirits of the company, I really lost my fears." 

We went to the window, and still heard the thunder at a distance; a soft rain watered the fields, and filled the air with the most delightful and refreshing smells.  (Goethe,The Sorrows of  Werter: A German Story, A new edition, London: J. Dodsley. 1784. p. )

If you want to read more, you will find plenty of angst and the final scene of Werther's suicide. It's actually quite touching. 

Young Werther