Friday, January 31, 2014

The Wedding of Geneviève and Louis

It turns out that Louis' parents were quite taken with Cousin Geneviève and began prodding their son in her direction. Of course, he acted like it was all their idea and everyone was happy. The wedding was a small but elegant affair; the French participants all decked out in court fashion, and Dolly, Minerva, and the bride wearing the latest gowns from Ackermann's Repository. Mrs. Nash, the bride's mother looked stately in a dark velvet gown with fur trim and a fine hat adorned with ostrich feathers, while Mr. Nash overcame his somewhat outdated garb by appearing the very picture of the jovial country gentleman. Mrs. Nash has been peering through her opera glasses, observing the motion of the chapel chandelier and ruminating about Foucault's Pendulum as the world turns.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How Geneviève Met Louis

As we know, Geneviève had already met Louis before the Blakeney party. It was during a trip to Paris that Geneviève attended a Bal des Victimes, a brief fad following the crash and burn of the French Revolution. It became quite fashionable for upper crust young people who had escaped the fate of Mme. Guillotine to wallow morbidly in their good fortune. One way was in fashion. The simple white tunic had been popularized by Marie Antoinette, but it really took off in the late 1790s. On one hand, it resembled the classic peplos worn by women in ancient Greece, and everyone was ancient history crazy at the time. Also, it brought to mind the prisoners being brought to execution in the crude tumbrels, stripped down to their white chemises. To accentuate this, women wore the costume à la victimewith long red ribbons around the neck, and often wrapped across their shoulders and down their arms, to suggest blood. Some women cut their hair short and ragged to complete the effect. The most gruesome touch was the habit of men to jerk their necks while bowing during introductions.

Strange parties were held by and for these folks, most famously at the Hôtel Thellusson. It was a psychologically difficult time for everyone, a phenomenon repeated again and again after devastating societal upheavals. I am reminded of the "Lost Generation" after World War I.

But for Geneviève and Louis, it was the beginning of a lovely romance.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Visit To Gin Lane

After the meeting with Uncle Digby, Mother takes Dolly and Minerva to the home of her parents. Poor baby Maggie! No wonder Mother is so aware of the huge inequalities of society!

In the first half of the 18th century, the distribution of cheap, flavored alcohol, called jenever, Geneva, or "gin", caused a situation called "The Gin Craze". The strong and extremely inexpensive liquor caused an epidemic of drunkenness among the very poor. The government tried various measures to curtail the production and sale of gin, with little effect. Gin was easy to produce and easy to sell. Gin dulled the miseries of life among the desperately poor, and as people would choose gin over food, it became obvious that their plight was becoming much worse. Drunken mothers gave birth to babies with fetal alcohol syndrome, and quieted their babies and hungry children with gin. 

The Gin Act of 1751 saw the end of the Craze, as liquor vendors were required to have licenses to sell. Unlicensed distillers and vendors were shunned, as deadly versions of home-brew gin appeared. So much like the dangers of American Prohibition (1920-1933). Another similarity is that food prices rose, causing people to choose food over drink.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The World of William Hogarth

William Hogarth was a talented and versatile artist of the first three-quarters of the 18th century. An engraver by trade, he aspired to be a painter in the historical genre, but is most famous for his engraved prints. He is considered the father of the serial print, notably The Harlot's Progress, The Rake's Progress, Marriage a la Mode, and  Beer Street and Gin Lane. These moralizing works portrayed in gritty detail the dangers of contemporary life and the disastrous consequences of going the wrong way. 

Many of Hogarth's paintings show a free and personal style that make me wish he had been born a hundred years later. The Shrimp Girl (1740-1745) could have easily been part of the Impressionist movement. Although the painting of The Hogarth Family Servants (c. 1750) is more traditional in style, I appreciate that these good faces have been preserved.

Dolly and Minerva get an unexpected jolt when Mother takes them to a gathering of a family they had no knowledge of. They certainly were not mentioned in Ackermann's Repository!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Geneviève Breaks an Engagement

Dolly and Minerva go to the opera to hear the famous soprano Angelina Catalani sing the part of Susanna in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Cousin Geneviève was to accompany them, but bowed out at the last minute. What was so pressing, that she would miss this opportunity to hear the greatest opera singer of the era? Little do they know that she is in a nearby box!

Angelica Catalani's remarkable voice was discovered when she was a teenager in a convent school in Rome, and it was little time before she embarked on a sensational singing career. From the age of 16, when she had a leading role at La Fenice in Venice, she amazed audiences and critics for the next thirty years. While singing in Paris in 1805, she signed a contract to perform in London from 1806-1807. Napoleon, eager to keep her in France, refused her a passport to leave the country, but she managed to slip out, spending the next several years in London. It was her role as Susanna that helped popularize Mozart's operas. Although we have no idea what she sounded like, the critical reviews establish her as one of the greatest opera singers of all time. Combined with her lovely doe-like features, she was a total sensation. 

Most likely unrelated to Angelica Catalani is the opera composer Alfredo Catalani (1854–1893), a largely overlooked figure, who wrote one of the most beautiful arias, "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana" in La Wally. Listen here to hear it sung by Maria Callas, who, like Angelica Catalani, combined beauty with the greatest singing voice of her age.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dolly and Iphigenia at the Theatre

Dolly has been a good aunt and taken her niece Iphigenia (called Iffy) to Covent Garden's Theatre Royal to see a play. For those of you who have high-spirited children, you know this can be tiring.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ballooning in France

The two Montgolfier brothers were born into a family of paper manufacturers, Observing how laundry suspended over a fire billowed up with the waves of heat, Joseph experimented with paper bags, until he and his brother Etienne eventually built the huge hot air-filled globes that could carry people long distances. Their first public demonstration was in June of 1783, with a balloon that traveled 2 km in 10 minutes, at an altitude of about 2,000 metres. This encouraged them to build a larger and beautiful balloon for a demonstration for the king and queen. With the assistance of Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, a wallpaper manufacturer, a gorgeous balloon was constructed. Aboard were a sheep called Montauciel ("Climb-to-the-sky"), a duck and a rooster.  The royal couple were totally impressed. 

The Montgolfier brothers were aware of the far-reaching implications of their invention, envisioning long-distance transportation and military possibilities. Other inventors soon jumped on the idea and balloon travel was the wave of the future. Here's a postcard from the late 1800s depicting "Airships in the Year 2000" while touting chocolate. 

A favorite poem in my family was "High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American pilot serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII. He was killed in a training exercise in England in 1941, at the age of 19. His poem, written on the back of a letter to his parents, was published and has since become an inspirational standard.

Is that Cousin Geneviève and Louis?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Taking the Waters at Bath

Bath was famous for its mineral waters since Roman times, hence the name Bath. Drinking and bathing in the waters was, and still is, considered good for the health in many such spas around the world. At the mineral pools, people would don long gowns and wade about. I found a photo of a bathing gown used by Martha Washington during her visits to Warm Springs at Berkeley, West Virginia. The Washington family frequented the springs, mainly for the benefit of her daughter Patsy, who suffered from epilepsy. Martha's gown is made of a blue and white checked yarn-dyed linen, with small lead weights sewn into the hem to keep it from floating up. 

Poor Patsy (Martha Parke Custis), began having seizures when she was 11 and her condition grew worse as time went on. The Washingtons tried everything known to current medicine to help her, with no effect. In 1773, when she was 17, Patsy died during a severe seizure. George Washington was devastated by her death, having been her doting stepfather since she was a toddler. 

So much is made of Bath as a fashionable spa destination, where people went to see and be seen, but I often think of all the truly ill people hoped against hope that they could find relief. It reminds me of the desperate crowd around the Pools of Siloam and Bethesda in Jerusalem, described in the Gospel of John.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Tea Room at Bath

Bath is a famous seaside resort, mainly due to Jane Austen's novels. Austen frequented Bath and the town is a favorite destination for Austen fans today. Dolly and Minerva are having a cuppa at a quaint tea room, and while in the midst of one of their eccentric conversations, notice that other women are listening intently to what they have to say. Despite their love of current novels, they have no idea that the three women are, front left to right, Fanny Burney, Jane Austen, and Maria Edgeworth.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Trip To The Seaside

Mother and the girls have gone to Scarborough, one of the many seaside resorts of the day. As I have posted before, Britain's coast was not a Club Med location, but the Regency concept of beach activity was very different from ours. It was more about the supposed health-giving properties of brisk sea air and a firm saltwater dip than tanning on the beach and sipping tropical drinks. 

Ackermann's print series of Thomas Rowlandson's Poetical Sketches of Scarborough showed a place for the hardy traveler. Despite its rugged coastline and inclement weather, Anne Brontë, the youngest of the Brontë sisters, often visited Scarborough to escape the worse terrain and weather of her home in Haworth. It was in Scarborough that she died in 1849, during a visit which she hoped would benefit her health. It was decided that she should be buried in St. Mary's churchyard rather than have her body returned the 70 miles to her home.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Party At The Cruikshank's

Isaac Cruikshank was a popular and prolific caricature artist of the late 1700s, and his sons, Isaac Robert and George followed in his trade. George began as a satirical print artist, but soon devoted himself to book illustrations. His most notable works are the illustrations for some of Charles Dickens' books, including Oliver Twist, and the first English translation of Grimm's Fairy Tales in 1823.

Dolly and Minerva, in their efforts to broaden their horizons by visiting other publications, are attending a party made up of people from Cruikshank's Comic Alphabet. Perhaps they are a little too comic.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mother's Old School Friends' Annual Gathering

Every year, Mother hosts a reunion of her school friends, a cheerful group of ladies who are extra cheerful when they get together. Dolly, Minerva, and Cousin Geneviève are expected to hover around but not mingle, lest they hear disturbing gossip about the husbands of these ladies, or mildly shocking information about the ladies themselves. Of course, they are anxious to hear the latter, as it might give them some clues about their paradoxical mother.

The girls are rolling their eyes at the so-outdated gowns of the ladies. Do they still dress as they did as girls, or is it all part of the reunion ritual?  Their fashion plates are from the French periodical Journal des Dames et des Modes, also known as Costume Parisien, which ran from 1797-1839. Geneviève is on edge. Never did she imagine that one of her aunt's school friends was the mother of her secret love, Louis.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Lady's Monthly

Dolly and Minerva are visiting some women from another publication, The Lady's Monthly Museum; Or, Polite Repository of Amusement and Instruction. Needless to say, they are not as pretty as the Ackermann women, but Mother assures them that beauty is only print-deep.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Waistlines and Bustlines

I particularly like Regency fashions because I've never had much of a waistline. I was quite skinny most of my adult life, until the last decade, and no matter how thin I was, I was pretty much of a straight tube from the bust down. How nice to have a clothing silhouette that completely ignored what was in that region! Let those women with hour-glass figures complain. And let later-decade reenactors complain about corsets! 

Dolly and Minerva are at the dressmaker's, having a final fitting on new gowns for 1811. Emphasis on the bustline is the word of the day.

Monday, January 13, 2014

La Belle Assemblée

There were many competing fashion magazines in Ackermann's day, although none approached the quality of Ackermann's fine fashion plates. It is easy to see how some of them attempted to copy the images, but the result was always crude and poorly colored. La Belle Assemblée was owned by John Bell, a mover and shaker in the publishing industry. The magazine ran from 1806-1839. Early fashion prints were quite amateurish, but improved as time (and technology) advanced. Early in its run, La Belle Assemblée focused on informative and literary articles for women, as was the trend in the Enlightenment era, but by the 1820s, the so-called Romantic movement had shifted the role of women to more domestic and fashion topics.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Life in a Doll's House

I've always been fascinated by dollhouses. As a child, I read stories in which pixies or fairies would take up residence in a dollhouse, usually being frustrated by the clunky, out-of-proportion furnishings. The only dollhouse I had was one of those metal jobs that held together with bendable tabs, and I couldn't imagine a pixie being too happy in a tin box, with a molded plastic bed to sleep on. At any rate, I never saw signs of any pixie habitation.

Dollhouses were popular in Regency times, but were a hobby for grown women rather than toys for children. We see that trend today, with the intricate models available, with very expensive furnishings that I wouldn't let a child touch. Miniature things are so intriguing. Some years ago, I found a book about the famous Thorne Collection of Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. The wealthy Mrs. James Ward Thorne spent many years and much money building 68 historically-correct room boxes that are just stunning.

In 1935, the actress Colleen Moore finished a fantastic fairy-tale castle and it soon went on the road for the public to see. My mother recalled her mother taking her into New York City to see it, but Mom was less than impressed. Sure it was incredibly intricate and amazingly furnished, but it wasn't to play with and you couldn't get near enough to touch it or peek closely into the rooms. Since 1949, it has been housed at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, where it has been undergoing restoration. Wouldn't that be a fun job?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Advice from Rudolph Ackermann

Father is visiting with Rudolph Ackermann today. He has noticed that the girls are behaving oddly and is at a loss for what to do about it. Of course, Rudolph has a solution for it. Of course, Ackermann's Repository is the best of all possible worlds, but it might broaden their horizons to wander through some other publications.

For Mr. Ackermann's office, I used a print of the workroom of Wilhelm Grimm, who along with his brother Jacob, was half of the Brothers Grimm, the famed collectors of German folk tales. They published their first collection of tales,  Children's and Household Tales, in 1812. Many revisions were made until these stories became the harmless "fairy tales" we are acquainted with today. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mourning in the 19th Century

People died a lot  more often in the old days, as we used to say, tongue in cheek. Of course, everyone dies only once, but compared to today, death was more of an ever-present specter. Infant mortality was high, today's childhood diseases and easily-cured ailments were deadly. There was no treatment for many injuries, and little or no concept of infection and transmission of disease. Whereas women today live longer than men on an average, in the past, women frequently died in childbirth or of female problems. It was far more common to find men who had been widowed and remarried, while today, it is usually women who have outlived their spouses.

Mourning customs were varied and many, but most visible in dress. Wearing black at funerals is still common today, but in the 19th century, black was worn for much longer periods. How long depended on the relationship of the mourner to the deceased. The black clothing was an expression of grief on the part of the mourner, the extreme example being Queen Victoria, whose beloved Albert died when she was 40, and who wore black until her death at age 82. It also alerted those around the mourner to be respectful of their situation. After a certain length of time, the mourner would relieve the black clothing with some white accessories, or wear grey or a quiet purple. Jewelry was usually made of jet or a mourning brooch with a memento of the loved one, such as a lock of hair. 

Early 19th century mourning rituals were far less rigid than later on, but the wearing of black was de rigeur.  Ackermann's Repository always included a black mourning dress, or the half-mourning colors in the year's fashion plates, with the model posing in a reflective and sombre manner. November and December of 1817 featured a number of mourning dresses after the death of Princess Charlotte. Her sudden demise brought on a tremendous out-pouring of grief from the public, similar to the response to the death of Princess Diana in 1997. All those in high society were expected to wear black, although it's a bit contradictory to see the descriptions of a black evening dress. You could be sorry Charlotte was dead, but you still had social engagements to attend. A year later, Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III and Princess Charlotte's grandmother died, and the Repository put up new black outfits for winter. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Death of Princess Charlotte

It looked like happily ever after for Princess Charlotte: married to her beloved handsome Prince, adored by the public, her future role as Queen of England, and now, a baby on the way! A true fairy-tale. Alas! It was to end in tragedy. 

Charlotte went into labor on the 3rd of November, 1817, and it was a slow and difficult labor. Her husband insisted on remaining by her side through most of it. After 50 hours, Charlotte delivered a 9 lb. son, stillborn. Leopold was advised to get some rest, and took a sleeping medication. While he was asleep and unable to be roused, Charlotte began to hemorrhage and died 5 hours later. Leopold was devastated, both personally, and for all the implications of the deaths of his wife and child.

Two generations gone—gone in a moment! I have felt for myself, but I have also felt for the prince regent. My Charlotte is gone from the country—it has lost her. She was a good, she was an admirable woman. None could know my Charlotte as I did know her. It was my study, my duty, to know her character, but it was also my delight. –Prince Leopold to Sir Thomas Lawrence after the death of his wife.

The deaths of these two meant that the heirs to the throne of Great Britain were gone. Although King George III had fathered 15 children, Charlotte had been the only legitimate direct heir. Now the family must search for the nearest relation in line.  George's third son William took the throne after George IV's death in 1830 and ruled until 1837, when he died without an heir. Again, the family was searched for the next in line. This proved to be the young Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent, daughter of George III's fourth son, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn and Princess Victoria Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Prince Leopold was her brother.

The tragedy of Charlotte was compounded by the suicide of her attending doctor, Sir Richard Croft. Overcome by a sense of his own failure in this event, he took his own life three months later. 

Leopold went on to become King Leopold I of Belgium, and apparently did a good job of it, becoming a fair and progressive leader in a difficult period of history.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Princess Charlotte of Wales

The bright spot of the Regency era was Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince Regent and Caroline of Brunswick. Despite the horror of their marriage, the couple managed to produce a lovely and sweet daughter, and proceeded to make her life pretty miserable. George left most of her upbringing to governesses and servants, and severely limited her contact with her mother. Charlotte was devoted to her mother, despite her faults. King George III adored his only grandchild and was responsible for arranging her education, with the clear goal of training her for the role of future queen.

I am surprised that a Regency costume drama has never been made of her life, as it is so full of intrigue, passion, and tragedy, all played by a spunky heroine that even Jane Austen could not have imagined. Charlotte was said to have identified with Austen's Marianne in Sense and Sensibility.

The Prince Regent was anxious to make an advantageous marriage for his daughter, and settled on William, the Hereditary Prince of Orange. Charlotte's first meeting with him was not a success, as William had joined all the other men in getting drunk. I'm making a long, complicated story very short, but during this time, Charlotte met a poor German nobleman, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, and the two fell in love. The end result was that they married and lived happily ever after. Well, happily for a year or so.

The public adored Charlotte and her happy match was viewed as not only a fairy-tale ending, but a triumph over the machinations of her father. Here, Dolly and Minerva are thrilled to see the loving couple at the theatre, while watching a performance of Sheridan's The Rivals. Mrs. Malaprop was a popular character, famed for her hilariously garbled figures of speech. Her name has gone on in the term malapropisms, substituting a word for a similar one, to humorous effect.

Here's a picture of Princess Charlotte next to the dress she wore in it.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Green Bag

The Prince Regent did his worst to discredit his wife, Caroline of Brunswick, in any way possible. In 1806, a secret commission was set up called, inappropriately, "The Delicate Investigation". George wanted to prove that Caroline was having affairs, and as the investigation became widely public, it was anything but delicate. The previous year, Caroline had taken in a three-month-old baby boy, William Austin, and rumors flew that the child was Caroline's. George had surrounded Caroline with his own choice of ladies-in-waiting, who were more than happy to deliver slanderous reports. As her own daughter, Charlotte, had been taken from her home, her lonely mother's heart had driven her to adopt 8 or 9 children, who were sent out to be fostered by nearby families. Eventually, a Sophia Austin testified to the commission that little William was hers.

Socially isolated by George's decrees, Caroline left England for some years. She hired a manservant, Bartolomeo Pergami, and as he was always by her side, rumors again flew. George was determined to find grounds for divorce in all this and set up another commission to gather evidence. All very complicated, and meanwhile, George found himself king. Caroline returned from the continent and was thrown into a bewildering situation. George was doing all he could to get rid of her, or at very least, strip her of any royal position. Part of the investigation against her was the Green Bag. Caroline's apartments were searched thoroughly for any evidence that she was living with Pergami, and whatever evidence found was to be put into special green cloth bags. The caricature artists had a field day with the green bags, usually pointing back at George, who could fill countless bags with his own evidence.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Britain's Best Hope

For all the Prince Regent did to alienate Princess Caroline, the British public seemed to like her. She had the common touch in abundance, and George's habits of high living, gambling, and prodigal spending did not endear him to the average Briton. This print clearly depicts the hope that Caroline's influence would provide some stability in government and society, something George spent little time worrying about. Alas, it was not to be. She was only to live another year. 

Dolly and Minerva decide to visit Mrs.John Bull after seeing the print, and get an earful on the subject. Lucky for them, Mr. Bull isn't home -- they'd be there all day, listening to his tirade!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Queen, Queen Caroline

Dolly and Minerva come upon their archery rival, Sophia, keeping in shape with a bit of rope skipping. And reciting the bit of doggerel that demeans poor Queen Caroline!

     Queen, Queen Caroline
     Washed her hair with turpentine;
     Turpentine to make it shine,
     Queen, Queen Caroline.

After her wedding to the Prince Regent in 1796, Caroline was given a suitable home and the couple lived separately for the rest of their lives. In 1820, King George III finally died. The 57 year old Prince was crowned George IV on July 19, 1821 and Caroline took it upon herself to be present, although no one had included her in any plans for the event. George had spent the previous years trying any way he could to exclude her from any royal role. Poor Caroline attempted to enter Westminster Abbey, but guards, who had been posted in case of that very event, forcibly removed her. 

Caroline returned home and experienced a seizure of some kind. After two weeks of severe illness, she died on August 7.

The rope-skipping girl is an illustration from Henry Fielding's 1749 novel, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, or Tom Jones for short. As young Tom cuts a swath through all sorts of complicated situations and rowdy women, there's always the pure and artless Sophia Western back home. A grown woman would hardly be skipping rope, but the artist chose this activity to illustrate just how unspoiled Sophia was. Of course, Dolly and Minerva know it's all just an act.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Prince's Ladies

Unlike his father George III, Prince George began collecting mistresses at an early age, most of them prominent titled women who bartered their reputations for the dubious social advantage and promise of financial gain. However, he met a widow, Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert, who would become the love of his life. A devout Catholic, she refused to become his mistress, and only gave in to him after a clandestine marriage ceremony in 1785. Unfortunately, the marriage was illegal, according to the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, which put poor Maria in a very difficult position. Meanwhile, George was being prodded toward an actual marriage arrangement with Princess Caroline of Brunswick, with the promise from Parliament that his allowance would be increased. Maria was informed that their relationship was at an end, and George married Caroline in 1795. What a disaster! The pair met the day before the wedding and George's first response was to request a drink. He spent the wedding day thoroughly drunk and barely recalled fulfilling his husbandly duty. 

Caroline was not every man's dream girl. Twenty-seven years old, Caroline was very much lacking in social graces; garrulous and coarse-mannered, although friendly and high-spirited. She was not particularly pretty, and her low standards of personal hygiene were noted by everyone down-wind of her. Her wedding night was the sum total of her intimate contact with the Prince, and nine months later, she gave birth to a daughter, Princess Charlotte

Back to Mrs. Fitzherbert. Torn this way and that between duty, love, and temptation, George attempted to revive his relationship with Maria, even writing a will bequeathing all his worldly goods "to my Maria Fitzherbert, my wife, the wife of my heart and soul". After the Pope declared their marriage valid in 1798, the pair took up where they left off. 

When George became king, he distanced himself from Maria, but from all accounts, still loved her deeply. He requested to be buried with the "lover's eye" brooch he had given her in lieu of a wedding ring. Although some websites say this is Maria's eye, it is actually George's, painted by the artist Richard Cosway and mounted in a brooch frame. Lover's eyes became quite a fashion, with the implicit message, "I am always looking at you".

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Going For A Dip At Brighton

Brighton was a popular seaside resort for the ton in the extended Regency era, a place where those who could afford extended getaways to take advantage of the fresh sea air and partake in a healthful dip in the waves. A "dip" was more than a short floundering about in the salt water. There were actually professional Dippers. Often they were a husband and wife team who provided a bathing machine and the service of immersing the patron. Bathing machines were wagons topped with enclosed cabins. They would be backed into the shallows and the back door opened to let the bather descend into the water. The cabin gave the bather privacy to dress and a blocked view from the beach. When the bather was ready to go into the water, the dipper would be waiting to help him or her down the steps. Women bathers were always assisted by a burly woman or two who could carry them down and steady them in the waves. Men and older boys were assisted by men called "bathers".

Then came the dip. The dipper would take a firm hold on the bather and force them down into the water for a full immersion. A child's first dip was quite an event. 

One of the most famous dippers was Mrs. Martha Gunn (1726-1815) of Brighton. There was even rhymes about her. The first is most likely about the infant Prince of Wales' first dip by Martha, which was commemorated in a painting:

            To Brighton came he,
            Came George III's son.
            To be bathed in the sea,
            By famed Martha Gunn.

Another rhyme sings the fame of Martha and the bather John "Smoaker" Miles, who taught the young Prince how to swim.

There’s plenty of dippers and jokers,
And salt-water rigs for your fun,
The King of them all is ‘Old Smoaker’
The Queen of ’em “Old Martha Gunn”.

The ladies walk out in the morn,
To taste of the salt-water breeze;
They ask if the water is warm,
Says Martha, “Yes, Ma’am, if you please.” 

Martha began dipping in her 20s and continued into her old age. One hardy woman!