Sunday, November 3, 2013

Acceptable Sports For Females #5: Walking

Who doesn't enjoy a good brisk walk or a leisurely stroll through an interesting landscape? Many of Ackermann's fashion illustrations were of "walking" or "promenade" dresses. Women needed comfortable outfits, suited to the season, in which they could explore some slightly rugged terrain or simply amble through a park, chatting with friends they met along the way or bringing the children out for a bit of fresh air.  Walks along the beach were especially popular, as the more privileged set took holidays at seaside resorts, where the salt air was reputed to strengthen one against the constant threat of lung ailments. Jane Austen thoroughly enjoyed her visits to the sea and incorporated her enthusiasm into her novels.
        "Nobody could catch cold by the sea; nobody wanted appetite by the sea; nobody wanted 
        spirits; nobody wanted strength. Sea air was healing, softening, relaxing — fortifying and 
         bracing — seemingly just as was wanted — sometimes one, sometimes the other. If the 
         sea breeze failed, the seabath was the certain corrective; and where bathing disagreed, 
         the sea air alone was evidently designed by nature for the cure.” 
                                                                                       ― Jane Austen, Sanditon

As Britain is an island nation, every scenic cove was transformed into some level of tourist get-away, from the opulence of Brighton with its Royal Pavilion to quaint villages on the coasts of Cornwall, where pirates and smugglers had so recently hidden their illegal cargoes. When I think of women walking along the seashores, my mind always goes to Gilbert and Sullivan's hilarious operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, in which the eight daughters of the Major-General romp over the rocky cliffs and encounter the most absurd pirates ever to terrorize the English coast. The 1983 movie, with Kevin Kline playing the best Pirate King ever, is one of my favorite films, and I am glad to see that it is now out on DVD. Linda Ronstadt's lovely voice won over the purists, Rex Smith is an admirable Frederick, and Angela Lansbury holds her own as the aged Ruth. The "Climbing Over Rocky Mountains" scene is delightful, with its comic posing.

Sources: Some old postcard of Cornwall; girls, Ackermann's Repository.

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