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In the eighteenth century, one of the favoured methods of catching a potential suitor’s eye was to head to a fashionable ball and astound the opposite sex with your sparkling wit and effortless mastery of the dancefloor [consider, if you will, the modern nightclub as the preferred venue for going out ‘on the pull’]. The anticipation of who might be there, of physical contact with the opposite sex, the heady mix of music, alcohol, dancing and laughter… all conspire to create the perfect environment for flirtation.

Sadly for everyone concerned, this noble pursuit has ever been fraught with danger. No matter how much time is spent in preparation – the new outfit, the rouge and the sparkly accessories, the meticulously coiffed hair – the unfortunate truth of the matter is that within a few hours most of the company will cut a rather less elegant figure. And although the Georgians did not need to worry about every unflattering posture or drink-fuelled misdemeanour being instantly captured on camera and broadcast to the entire world, they were certainly not immune to the effects of excessive drinking.

So, ladies and gents, if you are going out tonight with the intention of attracting a beau, TAKE HEED:

Before

At the beginning of the night, you are a vision of loveliness, brimming with confidence and excited about the promise of flirtations to come.

“You now dance away at the Hop in Queen Ann Street East, and capitvate all the men with your airs and graces!”

10_progressofawomanofpleasure_newton

After

A few glasses of wine later, and while you may still believe yourself to be a beautiful, mysterious creature, the chances are that you most assuredly are not.

“You wind up the evening with a Boxing match, and a Warrant and
two Black Eyes salute you in the Morning.”

[and also, evidently, a complete disregard for whether or not your clothes have started to fall off]

11_progressofawomanofpleasure_newton

Let’s face it. We’ve all been there.

Images: Detail from Richard Newton’s ‘Progress of a Woman of Pleasure’ (1796)

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