Item of the Day: Irving’s Salmagundi (1814)

Full Title:

Salmagundi; or, the Whim-Whams and Opinions of Laucelot Langstaff, Esq. And Others.
Volume I

Written by Washington Irving (1783-1859). Printed in New-York by David Longworth, 1814.

Notes, by William Wizard, esq. A description of the dance called the waltz — the intertwining of arms et cetera — the ecstatic fatigue of both parties at its conclusion:

1. Waltz] As many of the retired matrons of this city, unskilled in “gestic lore,” are doubtless ignorant of the movements and figures of this modest exhibition, I will endeavor to give some account of it, in order that they may learn what odd capers their daughters sometimes cut when from under their guardian wings.

On a signal being given by the music, the gentleman seizes the lady round her waist; the lady, scorning to be outdone in courtesy, very politely takes the gentleman round the neck, with one arm resting against his shoulder to prevent encroachments. Away then they go, about, and about, and about — “about what, sir?” — about the room, madam, to be sure. The whole economy of this dance consists in turning round and round the room in a certain measured step: and it is truly astonishing that this continued revolution does not set all their heads swimming like a top; but I have been positively assured that it only occasions a gentle sensation which is marvellously agreeable. In the course of this circumnavigation, the dancers, in order to give the charm of variety, are continually changing their relative situations; — now the gentleman, meaning no harm in the world, I assure you, madam, carelessly flings his arm about the lady’s neck, with an air of celestial impudence; and anon, the lady, meaning as little harm as the gentleman, takes him round the waist with most ingenuous modest languishment, to the great delight of numerous spectators and amateurs, who generally, form a ring, as the mob do about a pair of amazons pulling caps, or a couple of fighting mastiffs.

After continuing this divine interchange of hands, arms, et cetera, for half an hour or so, the lady begins to tire, and with “eyes upraised,” in most bewitching languor petitions her partner for a little more support. This is always given without hesitation. The lady leans gently on his shoulder, their arms intwine in a thousands seducing mischievous curves — dont be alarmed, madam — closer and closer they approach each other, and in conclusion, the parties being overcome with ecstatic fatigue, the lady seems almost sinking into the gentleman’s arms, and then — “Well, sir! and what then?” — lord, madam, how should I know!

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Filed under 1810's, Culture, Journal, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

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