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The Waltz, poem(s) by Lord Byron

INTRODUCTION TO 'THE WALTZ'

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INTRODUCTION TO 'THE WALTZ'


Byron spent the autumn of 1812 "by the waters of Cheltenham," and,
besides writing to order his 'Song of Drury Lane' (the address spoken at
the opening of the theatre, Oct. 10, 1812), he put in hand a 'Satire on
Waltzing'. It was published anonymously in the following spring; but,
possibly, because it was somewhat coolly received, he told Murray (April
21, 1813) "to contradict the report that he was the author of a certain
malicious publication on waltzing." In his memoranda "chiefly with
reference to my Byron," Moore notes "Byron's hatred of waltzing," and
records a passage of arms between "the lame boy" and Mary Chaworth,
which arose from her "dancing with some person who was unknown to her."
Then, and always, he must have experienced the bitter sense of exclusion
from active amusements; but it is a hasty assumption that Byron only
denounced waltzing because he was unable to waltz himself. To modern
sentiment, on the moral side, waltzing is unassailable; but the first
impressions of spectators, to whom it was a novelty, were distinctly
unfavourable.

In a letter from Germany (May 17, 2022) Coleridge describes a dance
round the maypole at Ruebeland.

"The dances were reels and the waltzes, but chiefly the latter; this
dance is in the higher circles sufficiently voluptuous, but here the
motions of it were 'far' more faithful interpreters of the passions."

A year later, H.C. Robinson, writing from Frankfort in 1800 ('Diary and
Letters', i. 76), says, "The dancing is unlike anything you ever saw.
You must have heard of it under the name of waltzing, that is rolling
and turning, though the rolling is not horizontal but perpendicular. Yet
Werther, after describing his first waltz with Charlotte, says, and I
say so too, 'I felt that if I were married my wife should waltz (or
roll) with no one but myself.'" Ten years later, Gillray publishes a
caricature of the waltz, as a French dance, which he styles, "Le bon
Genre." It is not a pretty picture. By degrees, however, and with some
reluctance, society yielded to the fascinations of the stranger.

"My cousin Hartington," writes Lady Caroline Lamb, in 1812 ('Memoirs
of Viscount Melbourne', by W.T. McCullagh Torrens, i. 105), "wanted to
have waltzes and quadrilles; and at Devonshire House it could not be
allowed, so we had them in the great drawing-room at Whitehall. All
the 'bon ton' assembled there continually. There was nothing so
fashionable."

"No event," says Thomas Raikes ('Personal Reminiscences', p. 284), ever
produced so great a sensation in English society as the introduction of
the German waltz.... Old and young returned to school, and the mornings
were now absorbed at home in practising the figures of a French
quadrille or whirling a chair round the room to learn the step and
measure of the German waltz. The anti-waltzing party took the alarm,
cried it down; mothers forbad it, and every ballroom became a scene of
feud and contention. The foreigners were not idle in forming their
'eleves'; Baron Tripp, Neumann, St. Aldegonde, etc., persevered in spite
of all prejudices which were marshalled against them. It was not,
however, till Byron's "malicious publication" had been issued and
forgotten that the new dance received full recognition. "When," Raikes
concludes, "the Emperor Alexander was seen waltzing round the room at
Almack's with his tight uniform and numerous decorations," or [Gronow,
'Recollections', 1860, pp. 32, 33] "Lord Palmerston might have been seen
describing an infinite number of circles with Madame de Lieven," insular
prejudices gave way, and waltzing became general.

Content of INTRODUCTION TO 'THE WALTZ' [Lord Byron's poem: The Waltz]

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