Letters from Teignmouth – Our Ball

ball 2aAs this blog progresses it is exciting to see the connections which start to develop. I suppose that’s not surprising given that the blog is quite focussed on a single theme – Teignmouth.

Obviously there will be ‘physical connections’ through the geography of the place but what is more interesting for me are the connections of social history. It reminds me of an earlier post of the poem “Mesh” by Ian Chamberlain which reflects an interconnectedness of place, people, time and that is what the essence of a town is all about I guess.

Winthrop Mackworth Praed

Winthrop Mackworth Praed

The last post was a commentary about Charles Babbage and Tennyson. Charles Babbage’s father, Benjamin, was a banking partner of the Praeds who owned the Bitton Estate in Teignmouth. Do you remember Winthrop Mackworth Praed, an early nineteenth century Teignmouth poet who appeared here a couple of months ago?

Here is another piece by him, written as one of his ‘Letters from Teignmouth’. I think it’s a nice pastiche of the lives of the social elite at that time; the ‘Ball’ could have been the ‘County Ball’ which was a feature of the time of ‘Recess’ when there was an exodus of the wealthy from London to savour country life for a while.  Thanks to some ferreting around by Tacy Rickard though it is evident that there was quite a social whirl of Balls in Teignmouth!  So maybe it was one of those.


(Winthrop Mackworth Praed, 1829)

“Comment! c’est lui? que je le regarde encore! C’est que vraiment il est bien changé ; n’est-ce pas, mon papa ?” — Les Premiers Amours.

You’ll come to our Ball; — since we parted,
I’ve thought of you more than I’ll say ;
Indeed, I was half broken-hearted
For a week, when they took you away. –
Fond fancy brought back to my slumbers
Our walks on the Ness and the Den,
And echoed the musical numbers
Which you used to sing to me then.
I know the romance, since it’s over,
‘Twere idle, or worse, to recall ;
I know you’re a terrible rover ;
But Clarence, you’ll come to our Ball!

It’s only a year, since, at College,
You put on your cap and your gown;
But, Clarence, you’re grown out of knowledge.
And changed from the spur to the crown;
The voice that was best when it faltered
Is fuller and firmer in tone,
And the smile that should never have altered —
Dear Clarence — it is not your own;
Your cravat was badly selected;
Your coat don’t become you at all;
And why is your hair so neglected?
You must have it curled for our Ball.

I’ve often been out upon Haldon
To look for a covey with pup;
I’ve often been over to Shaldon,
To see how your boat is laid up:
In spite of the terrors of Aunty,
I’ve ridden the filly you broke;
And I’ve studied your sweet little Dante
In the shade of your favourite oak:
When I sat in July to Sir Lawrence,
I sat in your love of a shawl;
And I’ll wear what you brought me from Florence,
Perhaps, if you’ll come to our Ball.

You’ll find us all changed since you vanished;
We’ve set up a National School;
And waltzing is utterly banished,
And Ellen has married a fool;
The Major is going to travel,
Miss Hyacinth threatens a rout,
The walk is laid down with fresh gravel,
Papa is laid up with the gout;
And Jane has gone on with her easels,
And Anne has gone off with Sir Paul;
And Fanny is sick with the measles,
And I’ll tell you the rest at the Ball.

You’ll meet all your Beauties; the Lily,
And the Fairy of Willowbrook Farm,
And Lucy, who made me so silly
At Dawlish, by taking your arm;
Miss Manners, who always abused you
For talking so much about Hock,
And her sister, who often amused you
By raving of rebels and Rock
And something which surely would answer.
An heiress quite fresh from Bengal;
So, though you were seldom a dancer.
You’ll dance, just for once, at our Ball.

But out on the World! from the flowers
It shuts out the sunshine of truth.
It blights the green leaves in the bowers,
It makes an old age of our youth;
And the flow of our feeling, once in it,
Like a streamlet beginning to freeze.
Though it cannot turn ice in a minute.
Grows harder by sudden degrees;
Time treads o’er the graves of affection;
Sweet honey is turned into gall;
Perhaps you have no recollection
That ever you danced at our Ball!

You once could be pleased with our ballads, —
To-day you have critical ears;
You once could be charmed with our salads —
Alas! you’ve been dining with Peers;
You trifled and flirted with many, —
You’ve forgotten the when and the how;
There was one you liked better than any, —
Perhaps you’ve forgotten her now.
But of those you remember most newly,
Of those who delight or enthrall,
None love you a quarter so truly
As some you will find at our Ball.

They tell me you’ve many who flatter.
Because of your wit and your song;
They tell me — and what does it matter ? —
You like to be praised by the throng;
They tell me you’re shadowed with laurel;
They tell me you’re loved by a Blue;
They tell me you’re sadly immoral —
Dear Clarence, that cannot be true!
But to me, you are still what I found you.
Before you grew clever and tall;
And you’ll think of the spell that once bound you;
And you’ll come — won’t you come? — to our Ball!

Want to know more? Check out:

Winthrop Mackworth Praed …..
Mesh …..
Teignmouth Balls …..


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