Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Ball in New Orleans 1835

A Creole lady in daywear, 1839.
The English author of this memoir mentions that London balls tend to have pretty mediocre wine. The music at this New Orleans ball is provided by harp, piano, flute, violin and clarionet.

I soon became acquainted with several polite and obliging persons of different countries, and had an opportunity of observing, that the style of living at New Orleans, though not so expensive as among the wealthier merchants of New York and Philadelphia, is very handsome and comfortable. 

During my stay here I received an invitation to a Creole ball, the first of the season. The house was small, but very neatly furnished ; the music, which consisted of a harp, piano, flute, violin, and clarionet, was performed by amateurs, notwithstanding which it was excellent. On entering the room, and casting my eyes around me, I stood in admiration at the number of pretty faces and figures, and at the correctness of taste displayed in the dresses of the ladies.

   The general character of Creole beauty is a dark, but clear and transparent complexion, black eyes fringed with long eyelashes, and finely pencilled eyebrows ; a nose neither Greek nor Roman, but delicately formed, and a very fine "taille" although apt to run rather early too far into the "aimable embonpoint." In manners the Creole ladies are gay, lively, and unaffected, and altogether possess as much personal attraction as has fallen to the lot, even of the fairest average of the fair creation. They all have fine dark hair, and, what is very remarkable, they all dress it nearly in the same manner : this coiffure is not a la Grecque, but of that character, and the hair is brought rather forward on the side of the cheek ; they seem to pay very great attention to this part of the toilette, and I do not remember to have seen hair more beautifully clean, fine, and gracefully disposed ; nevertheless, I must confess, that 1 should admire the taste of the fair Creoles more, if they arranged it with greater variety, according to the respective characters of their features.

Of course, the conversation was carried on in French, and the customs of the same nation were observed during the evening: according to these, I was privileged to address and to dance with any young lady in company, without going through the ceremonial ordeal of introduction ; and it is impossible to conceive an assembly conducted with more agrement, and with less restraint, than this Creole coterie. 

I must also acknowledge, that I had seen nothing so like a ball since I left Europe : the contre-danses were well danced, and there was waltzing without swinging, and a galloppade without a romp. The supper was exceedingly handsome, and in one respect superior to most of those given at ball suppers in London : namely, the wines were of the same description which our host would give to his friends at dinner ; whereas, in the latter city, it is but too common a practice to give inferior wines on such occasions, and to poison the guests with Wright's champaign, upon the plea, that it is good enough for a ball supper. On the whole, I went away much pleased with the mirth and agreeable manners of Creole society. (Charles Augustus Murry, Travels in North America during the years 1834, 1835, 1836. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1839, p. 130-131.)

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