☰ Menu

(Advertise your events here for free)

Return to Index

Paper 26

Etiquette Guide Rules for Social Dancing (1808-1831)

Contributed by Paul Cooper, Research Editor

Several British Dancing Masters of the early 19th Century published rules or guidelines for the regulation of social dancing, notable amongst whom were Thomas Wilson, John Cherry, Edward Payne, and G.M.S. Chivers. Some of these authors published multiple books, and introduced additional details to their recommendations over time. This paper investigates those lists, and attempts to detect patterns of influence between them.

Figure 1. Hackney Assembly, 1812, by Rowlandson. © Corporation of London

The earlier lists were heavily influenced by the published conventions of the public Assembly Rooms (investigated in a previous paper), the later lists add many additional details. In this paper we'll consider those rules, and what we can discern from them about British social dancing in the early 19th century. Most of these rules pertain to Country Dancing, the historical conventions for which can be quite different to what modern enthusiasts typically experience; you might find it helpful to review our paper on the Form of Country Dancing before reading further, it describes the historical conventions of the early 19th Century in some detail.

Although numerous historical works are referenced in this paper it's not an exhaustive review. Several additional works were published in this same period that I don't have access to, and entire works may have existed that are otherwise forgotten. If you know of further relevant information do please contact us as we'd love to know more.

This is a lengthy paper which mostly consists of reference material, much of which (at time of writing) is not readily available elsewhere on the internet; it's effectively a continuation of the preceding paper on the regulations of Assembly Rooms. The following Table of Contents may assist with navigation of the information:

This paper only reviews the early 19th century texts, but an honourable mention can be made for an anonymously published 1764 book called Country-Dancing Made Plain and Easy. It is the earliest source I know of documenting the kernel of the rules that would subsequently follow.




Thomas Wilson's, Analysis of Country Dancing, 1st Ed., 1808

The first major guide to be published in the 19th Century was Thomas Wilson's Analysis of Country Dancing, the first edition of which was published in 1808. Wilson introduced his Etiquette of the Ball Room chapter with the following statement:

The regulations of some well known assemblies are already before the public. As the Bath Guide contains the rules and etiquette of their balls, which for public balls are perhaps the genteelest and best conducted of any in England, I have in the following lines given only such general hints as ought to be observed in all assemblies, whether public or private.

Wilson's initial list of rules was clearly influenced by the conventions at Bath (and elsewhere), but he took the liberty of adding additional information of his own, and claimed that his conventions were universally applicable. Wilson's list of rules is likely to be the original document from which the later publications are derived.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Wilson's Analysis of Country Dancing, 1st Ed., 1808 (page 133)
WILSON0801Every Lady on entering the ball room must be presented by the Master of the Ceremonies with a ticket, on which is inscribed the number of her call (except Ladies of title, who claim their precedence according to their rank or seniority), which she should pin in a conspicuous place, to prevent any confusion or misunderstanding respecting places.
WILSON0802Any Lady or Gentleman wishing to dance a Minuet must, as soon as they enter the room, make known their intentions to the Master of the Ceremonies.
WILSON0803No Gentlemen must enter the ball room with whole or half boots on, or with canes or sticks in their hands; nor are pantaloons considered a proper dress for the assembly room.
WILSON0804When Country Dancing has commenced, and the top couple have gone down three couple, the next couple must go off.
WILSON0805When every couple have gone down the dance, and the couple who called it have regained the top and gone down three couple, the dance is finished; for the next dance they stand at the bottom.
WILSON0806Number 2 calls the second dance, and so regularly on through the company, till, if the time permits, number 1 becomes entitled to another call.
WILSON0807In large assemblies when it is requisite to divide the company into two, three, or four sets, which is sometimes the case, the first set is called A, the second B, and so on. The top couple in A calls the first dance, then the top couple in B, and so on through each set; then the second couple in A, then B, &c..
WILSON0808Any couple standing up after the dance is called must go to the bottom for that dance; after which, by making application to the Master of the Ceremonies, he will place them in their proper situation.
WILSON0809It is a great breach of good manners for any couple to leave a dance before it is finished.
WILSON0810No figure must be altered unless by permission of the Lady who called it.
WILSON0811All disputes respecting the dancing must be referred to the Master of the Ceremonies.
WILSON0812As soon as a dance is finished the Master of the Ceremonies should make a signal to the leader of the band, to prevent any clapping of hands or unnecessary noise.
WILSON0813No Ladies or Gentlemen must, during a Country Dance, attempt to dance Reels or other figures in any part of the room.
WILSON0814At public balls where supper is given, the Master of the Ceremonies should inform the company when supper is ready; and when the company is disposed to return to the ball room, the Master of the Ceremonies should order the band to play some appropriate tune, to bring the company out of the supper room.
Figure 2. Example dancing tickets, Swiss, 1780s.

© Trustees of the British Museum

These rules are similar to those of the various Assembly Rooms. For example, many have parrallels with the 1787 rules of the Edinburgh Assemblies. It's notable that Wilson promoted the Minuet in WILSON0802, a dance that was still featured in the regulations of the Bath Assemblies at this date, but had been dropped from many other venues' governance rules. WILSON0808 is a close approximation of a rule that governed the Bath Assemblies of 1810, and many others show clear similarities.

Figure 2 shows some surviving dance tickets of a similar nature to those referenced in WISLON0801. These examples are from the 1780s, and are understood to be of Swiss origin; such ephemeral artefacts are fragile and rarely survive.

One of the more interesting new features in the list is WILSON0804, a rule requiring a new top couple to start dancing after every three iterations of a Country Dance; it's notable as Wilson's books generally recommended a new couple to start every fourth iteration, a feature almost unique to his own publications. Wilson may be tacitly acknowledging that his convention of neutral couples between minor sets was uncommon at most assemblies. Of even greater interest is WILSON0805 which governed when a Country Dance should end; Wilson was, once again, almost unique in recommending the conclusion to be three iterations after the leading couple return to the top of the set, it's a key distinguishing feature of Wilsonian Country Dancing - most authorities required a Country Dance to end the second time the lead couple were within two or three iterations of the bottom of the set.

Wilson's rules also include directions pertaining to the Master of the Ceremonies, a role he usually undertook at his own public Balls. He also included details for how lengthy Country Dancing sets should be split, and how precedence should be organised across a split set. The WILSON0813 rule against the dancing of Reels and other dances, while a Country Dance is being enjoyed, is similar to a rule from the 1804 regulations at Glasgow; it probably meant that guests should not attempt to use the music for a secondary purpose whilst a Country Dance was being danced.




Thomas Wilson's, Analysis of Country Dancing, 3rd Ed., 1811

The first edition of Analysis of Country Dancing must have been quite successful, as Wilson released the second and third editions in 1811. These weren't simple reprints, the third edition contained a large quantity of new and improved information (which may also have been in the second edition, I haven't found a copy to compare against). His essay on Ball Room Etiquette was also much enhanced.

His updated rules include most of the information from the first edition, though significantly restructured, together with a lot of new information. Most of these new rules can be found in the published regulations for Assembly Rooms of the period, so they're not of his own invention. He may however have been influenced by other writers; his contemporary John Cherry wrote a book around this same time, with similar rules - I can't be certain about whether Wilson was influenced by Cherry, or Cherry by Wilson. Reasoned intuition leads me to suspect that this updated version of Analysis of Country Dancing remains a purely Wilsonian text. It's his later publications that show a clearer influence from Cherry.

Wilson introduced his amplified etiquette rules with the following text:

In the following sketch I have not entered into the minutiae of the duties of the Conductor, or of the Company that compose a ball; neither have I introduced any bye laws, such as appertain to certain assemblies, as those of BATH, &c. but have confined myself to those general principles of politeness, which, like the laws of nations, must invariably be preserved in all assemblies, whether public or private, independent of any other rule or restriction any particular assembly may have to itself.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Wilson's Analysis of Country Dancing, 3rd Ed., 1811 (page 189)
WILSON1101On entering the Ball-room, each Lady must be presented by the Master of the Ceremonies with a ticket, on which is inscribed the number of her call; the first Lady is entitled to No 1, and so on, as they enter the Ball-room, which they should pin in a conspicuous place, to prevent any misunderstanding respecting places. [ see WILSON0801 ]
WILSON1102Gentlemen must not enter the Ball room in whole or half-boots, or with sticks or canes; nor are pantaloons considered a proper dress for the assembly room. [ see WILSON0803 ]
WILSON1103The most fashionable and proper dance to open a Ball with is a Minuet.
WILSON1104Any Lady or Gentleman wishing to dance a Minuet should communicate the same to the Master of the Ceremonies, as soon as they enter the Ball-room. [ see WILSON0802 ]
WILSON1105Any couple refusing to stand when the dance is called, shews great disrespect to the Lady that calls it.
WILSON1106No two Ladies must dance together, without permission of the Master of the Ceremonies.
WILSON1107In the absence of Ladies, Gentlemen sometimes form couples; in that case they must stand at the bottom.
WILSON1108Should any Lady lose her ticket, she must apply to the Master of the Ceremonies for another, else she cannot claim her proper situation, which is known by her number.
WILSON1109The couple that are going to call the dance must inform the Master of the Ceremonies both of tune and figure, that he may give directions to the different sets, and direct the band accordingly.
WILSON1110The Master of the Ceremonies can object to any call that affords reasonable ground for complaint, such as length or difficulty of figure; but the couple whose call is rejected, have the liberty of calling another dance less objectionable.
WILSON1111In large assemblies, it is sometimes requisite to divide the company into divisions or sets, which are distinguished either by figures or letters, generally the latter; the couple in the division or set A calls the first dance, the top couple in the division or set B calls the second dance, so on through each set, then the second couple in A, then B, &c.. [ see WILSON0807 ]
WILSON1112Should any couple, after calling the dance, find themselves incapable of performing it, they may call another, but if the same difficulty occurs in the second call, the Master of the Ceremonies can transfer the call to the next couple, and place the couple that failed at the bottom of the dance or set.
WILSON1113Should any couple while going down the dance stop, or perform the figure twice with one couple, they must drop a couple, or stand out so as not to interrupt the couple that follows them.
WILSON1114No couple must leave a dance till it is finished. [ see WILSON0809 ]
WILSON1115Any couple standing up after the dance has begun, must stand at the bottom for that dance. [ see WILSON0808 ]
WILSON1116Ladies or Gentlemen being without partners should make application to the Master of the Ceremonies, as it is his place, if possible, to provide them.
WILSON1117When the couple that called the dance has gone down three couple, the second couple must begin. [ see WILSON0804 ]
WILSON1118When all the couples have gone down the dance, and the couple that called it have regained the top, and have gone down three couple, the dance is finished; for the next dance they stand at the bottom. [ see WILSON0805 ]
WILSON1119No person must, during a Country Dance, hiss, clap, or make any other noise to disturb the company.
WILSON1120No Lady or Gentleman must, during a Country Dance, attempt Reels, or other figures in the same room. [ see WILSON0813 ]
WILSON1121Between the Country Dances, no Lady or Gentleman must call a Reel or any other dance, without permission of the Master of the Ceremonies.
WILSON1122A dance cannot be called twice the same evening.
WILSON1123Any person leaving the room directly they have had their call shews great disrespect to the company, except the dancing is concluded for the evening.
WILSON1124When a dance is finished, the Master of the Ceremonies should make a signal to the leader of the band to stop, to prevent any unnecessary noise of clapping of hands, &c. [ see WILSON0812 ]
WILSON1125All disputes respecting the dancing must be referred to the Master of the Ceremonies. [ see WILSON0811 ]
WILSON1126At public assemblies where supper is given, the Master of the Ceremonies should inform the company when supper is ready; after which, when the company are disposed to return to the Ball-room, the Master of the Ceremonies should order the band to play some appropriate tune to bring the company out of the supper room. [ see WILSON0814 ]
WILSON1127The Master of the Ceremonies should wear a sash, or some other mark, to distinguish him from the rest of the company.
Figure 3. Dancing Engagements card, 1787.

© Trustees of the British Museum

If these rules are compared to the rules from the 1st edition, it'll be found that two are missing: the rather dull WILSON0806; and the more interesting but implicit WILSON0810. The WILSON1115 rule had also lost the second half of WILSON0808 which allowed late-comers to regain their position once the current dance had ended; the WILSON1101 rule had also lost (perhaps tellingly so) the precedence exception for ladies of title from WILSON0801. The distinctively Wilsonian WILSON1118/WILSON0805 rule which determined when a Country Dance should end was retained however.

I won't speculate about why the rules were rewritten and shuffled. The new sequence matches that of Cherry's book very closely, perhaps hinting that Cherry published first and Wilson borrowed from him (though I suspect the chronology is the other way around). The new rules include advice for handling same-sex couples, practical advice around the use of tickets, the removal of distractions for dancers, and additional responsibilities for the Master of Ceremonies. Wilson's references to the Minuet increase in this set of rules, with WILSON1103 promoting the Minuet as the most proper dance with which to start a ball, something that was certainly true at Bath at this date, but less clearly so anywhere else.

Wilson's references to the Minuet are interesting. He often danced a minuet with one of his pupils as the opening act of his own public balls, perhaps as a way of introducing himself and asserting his authority over a public assembly. I suspect he found it useful to promote the Minuet as a way of promoting himself at his own events... I know of little evidence of him genuinely having insight into the dancing practices of the Nobility and Gentry, despite his hints to the contrary.

Figure 3 shows a Dancing Engagements card, understood to date to 1787. The British Museum add that it was associated with: the Fishery Ball which Lord Breadalbane & Sir John Sinclair conducted on Friday May 4th.




John Cherry's, Treatise on the Art of Dancing, c.1813

Wilson's contemporary John Cherry was another London based dancing master of the Regency period. He published his own undated A Treatise on the Art of Dancing c.1813 (I estimate a date of 1811 to 1813), which contained a list of etiquette rules that closely follows that of Wilson's 3rd edition of Analysis of Country Dancing. They're so similar that one must surely be derived from the other... but which came first?

Wilson's later publications do show influence from Cherry, so if he did absorb many of Cherry's etiquette rules in 1811, one might wonder why he borrowed so little from Cherry at that date, and would later go on to borrow much more. Cherry's etiquette rules appear at the end of his book, published almost as an afterthought. I suspect he'd written most of his book before discovering a copy of Wilson's work, decided that he needed an etiquette list of his own, and borrowed from Wilson (though rewording many of the rules).

Regardless of who published first, the two lists contain some significant differences, and thereby offer insight into the extent to which Wilson represented the entire social dancing industry of his period.

Cherry introduced his etiquette rules with the following text:

As certain assemblies have private rules of their own, it would be wrong to offer the laws of any one as a sufficient guide in all; I shall, therefore, give the generally acknowledged etiquette in public and private balls which, independent of other regulations appertaining to particular ones, must always operate.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Cherry's A Treatise on the Art of Dancing, c.1813 (page 77)
CHERRY01On entering the ball room, each lady or gentleman (as the rule may be) must be presented, by the master of the ceremonies, with a ticket, which must be placed on some conspicuous part of the dress, to prevent any misunderstanding about the situation in the dance, for no one can claim a place without displaying the ticket. [ see WILSON1101 ]
CHERRY02Gentlemen must not enter the Ball room with a hat on, in whole or half boots, or with sticks or canes; nor are pantaloons or trowsers a proper dress in the ball room. [ see WILSON1102 ]
CHERRY03The most fashionable and proper dance to open a ball with is a minuet. [ see WILSON1103 ]
CHERRY04Any lady or gentleman wishing to dance a minuet, should communicate the same, on first entering the room, to the master of the ceremonies. [ see WILSON1104 ]
CHERRY05Two ladies or two gentlemen cannot dance together without the permission of the master of the ceremonies. [ see WILSON1106 ]
CHERRY06This permission can not be given, if there is an equal number of ladies and gentlemen present.
CHERRY07Any couple refusing to stand up, when the dance is called, shews great disrespect to the lady that calls it. [ see WILSON1105 ]
CHERRY08If a lady or gentleman lose a ticket, application must be made to the master of the ceremonies for another, else the situation in the dance, known by the number, cannot be claimed. [ see WILSON1108 ]
CHERRY09The couple that are about to call a dance, must inform the master of the ceremonies both of tune and figure, that he may give the necessary directions to the different sets and to the band. [ see WILSON1109 ]
CHERRY10The master of the ceremonies can object to any call that affords reasonable ground for complaint, such as length or difficulty of figure, &c.; but the couple has the liberty of naming another call less objectionable. [ see WILSON1110 ]
CHERRY11Should any couple, after calling a dance, be incapable of performing it, they may call another; but if the same difficulty occurs in the second call, the master of the ceremonies can transfer the call to the next couple, and place the couple that failed at the bottom of the dance or set. [ see WILSON1112 ]
CHERRY12Should any couple, while going down the dance, stop, or perform the figure twice with one couple, they must drop a couple or stand out: for they must not interrupt those that follow them in the figure. [ see WILSON1113 ]
CHERRY13No person must leave a dance till it is finished. [ see WILSON1114 ]
CHERRY14When the couple that called the dance has gone down three couple, the second must begin the figure, unless the figure should require four couple to keep the performance distinct. [ see WILSON1117 ]
CHERRY15When all couples have gone down the dance, and the couple who called it, after regaining the top, has again come within three couple of the bottom, the dance is finished, and at the commencment of the next dance such couple must stand at the bottom. [ see WILSON1118 ]
CHERRY16No person may, during a country dance, hiss, clap, or make any other noise, that will disturb the company. [ see WILSON1119 ]
CHERRY17No persons, during a country dance, must attempt reels, or other dance, in the same room. [ see WILSON1120 ]
CHERRY18Ladies or gentlemen being without partners, should make application to the master of the ceremonies, as it is his duty, if possible, to provide them. [ see WILSON1116 ]
CHERRY19Between the country dances, no person can call a reel or other dance without permission of the master of the ceremonies. [ see WILSON1121 ]
CHERRY20The same dance cannot be called twice the same evening. [ see WILSON1122 ]
CHERRY21Persons, who leave the room directly they have had their call, shew great disrespect to the company, unless the dancing is concluded for the night. [ see WILSON1123 ]
CHERRY22When a dance is finished, the master of the ceremonies is the proper person to notify it to the band; it is vulgar in the extreme for the company to clap their hands on this occasion. [ see WILSON1124 ]
CHERRY23All disputes respecting the dancing must be referred to the master of the ceremonies, and his decision abided by. [ see WILSON1125 ]
CHERRY24Immediate attention should be paid to any request regarding the dancing, made by the master of the ceremonies, otherwise he cannot conduct the dance.
CHERRY25The master of the ceremonies should wear a sash or some other sufficient decoration, to distinguish him from the rest of the company. [ see WILSON1127 ]
Figure 4. Ticket for Commencement Ball, Cambridge, 1807.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Most rules in this list have a one-to-one mapping to equivalent rules in the 3rd edition of Wilson's Analysis of Country Dancing, but some differences do emerge. Such differences are telling; they imply that either Cherry or Wilson (depending on who published first) felt sufficiently strongly about those rules that they chose to diverge on a list that was almost completely equivalent.

Some of Wilson's rules are missing from Cherry's list: WILSON1126 referred to regulating of supper; WILSON1115 required late-comers to start at the bottom of the Country Dancing set (and is widely present in the published Assembly Room regulations, so is an odd omission); WILSON1111 provided details on how to split a long set of Country Dancers; and WILSON1107 helped govern same-sex couples (something Cherry appears to have disapproved of as he added CHERRY06 discouraging them). Cherry also added CHERRY24, a non-controversial rule demanding respect for the Master of Ceremonies, something Wilson would surely have included if his list was derived from Cherry's.

Two further differences are especially interesting. Firstly, CHERRY15 changed WILSON1118 to remove the reference to the Wilsonian mechanism for ending a Country Dance - Cherry promoted the dance ending when the lead couple had danced down the set for a second time. He presumably felt sufficiently strongly on the subject to correct Wilson, though it's curious that the two rule variants are equivalent if a longways set is made up of just six couples. The other fascinating change is between CHERRY14 and WILSON1117, Cherry's variant of the rule incorporates tolerance for the Wilsonian concept of a neutral couple between minor sets, something that was notably absent from Wilson's equivalent rule. Again, Wilson would surely have included this alteration if his rules were derived from Cherry's, as that neutral couple was a core part of Wilson's system of Country Dancing (whereas it wasn't a part of Cherry's system as described elsewhere in his book).




Edward Payne's, A New Companion to the Ball Room, 1814

The next major source to consider is Edward Payne's 1814 A New Companion to the Ball Room. Payne's work, like those of Wilson and Cherry before him, included a list of regulations for ball room etiquette. The similarity between the work of Wilson and Cherry makes it difficult to determine who most influenced Payne, but a reference to the regulations for supper strongly hints that Payne had a copy of Wilson's 3rd edition of Analysis of Country Dancing to hand when he wrote his list. He may have also had Cherry's book, as one of the final rules could be derived from Cherry's rule CHERRY24 - though that could be the result of simple chance. It's even possible that Cherry's book wasn't published until after Payne's, but I find that improbable.

Payne, however, did not simply tweak an earlier list; he completely rewrote Wilson's list, and added a lot of new information of his own in the process. Payne's work is quite distinct, and it is fascinating as yet another independent commentary on Regency era social dancing.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Payne's A New Companion to the Ball Room, 1814 (page 53)
EPAYNE01On entering the Ball Room the Numbers are in general given out, and sometimes not until fifteen or twenty couple are collected; the Master of the Ceremonies must present each Lady that intends dancing, with a Ticket, on which is inscribed the Number of her call. (The Numbers are frequently given to the Gentlemen.) The Lady that receives the Ticket No 1*, is entitled to the first call. The Lady that receives No 2, calls the second dance, and so on regularly.

*At some Balls it is their Rule to give the couple No 1, also No 9; then two of that Number is requisite in case the time will permit of Nine Dances; the Ninth couple is entitled to the call before No 1, the reason of the couple receiving also No 9, is to prevent them being at or near the bottom the whole of the Evening; as in some Parties, it is an Honor conferred on the couple to lead off the first Dance, and at others again, it is Obliging the Master of the Ceremonies to lead off the first Dance. [ see WILSON1101, CHERRY01 ]

EPAYNE02The Lady or Gentleman that retains their number should place it in a conspicuous place, and let it remain there till they have finished dancing, to prevent any misunderstanding respecting their regular places. [ see WILSON1101, CHERRY01 ]
EPAYNE03Should any Lady or Gentleman lose their Ticket, they must apply to the Master of the Ceremonies for another, or else they cannot claim their call or regular place. [ see WILSON1108, CHERRY08 ]
EPAYNE04Any Lady or Gentleman desirous of Dancing a Minuet on their first entering of the Room, should make their intentions known to the Master of the Ceremonies. [ see WILSON1104, CHERRY04 ]
EPAYNE05When all the Ladies have their numbers, and a sufficient number is collected, the Master of the Ceremonies will begin to form the Set, by calling up No 1, which couple takes the Top and calls the first dance, then No 2 comes next; then No 3, and so on till all the Tickets that where given out are called up.
EPAYNE06As soon as the Lady or Gentleman hears their number called, they should fall in their respective places as soon as possible.
EPAYNE07Any couple going to retire in the early part of the Evening, should first deliver their Ticket to the Master of the Ceremonies, in order that he may know such a couple is absent when the numbers are called up.
EPAYNE08No two Ladies must dance together whilst two Gentlemen in the room are disengaged, the same rule must be observed by the Gentlemen. [ see WILSON1106, CHERRY05 ]
EPAYNE09In the absence of Ladies, * Gentlemen frequently form couples; when that occurs, they must stand at the bottom of the set.

* In some Assemblies, no Two Gentlemen are allowed to call a Dance. [ see WILSON1107 ]

EPAYNE10In the abensence of Gentlemen, Ladies frequently dance together, but they keep their respective places. [ see WILSON1107 ]
EPAYNE11Such Ladies and Gentlemen not being provided with Partners, should apply to the Master of the Ceremonies, whose place it is, and will if possible provide them. [ see WILSON1116, CHERRY18 ]
EPAYNE12The couple that are going to call the dance, must always inform the Master of the Ceremonies both of the Tune and Figure, that he may direct the sets when more than one, and give directions to the Band, which should always play the Tune once over before the commencement of the figure. [ see WILSON1109, CHERRY09 ]
EPAYNE13Any couple calling a figure of uncommon length, or very difficult, the Master of the Ceremonies can object to it, and the couple must call a figure more suitable. [ see WILSON1110, CHERRY10 ]
EPAYNE14Should any couple after calling a dance, find themselves incapable of performing the figure, provided they have not passed more than three or four couple, they are entitled to another call; but should the same difficulty occur a second time, the Master of the Ceremonies can place the couple at the bottom that failed, and transfer the call to the next couple. [ see WILSON1112, CHERRY11 ]
EPAYNE15Any couple entering after the dance has begun and wishing to go down, must apply to the Master of the Ceremonies, who will present them with their Ticket, and place them in their respective places according to their number, if the dance be just commenced; but should the dance be nearly finished, they must then take their situation a couple before those who called the dance; (but in case the couple that called the dance has recommenced the figure) – the couple wishing to go down, must observe, that the Band is not to continue playing till they have gained the bottom, but finish at the regular time. [ see WILSON0808 ]
EPAYNE16Any couple standing up after the dance is commenced, without receiving their Ticket from the Master of the Ceremonies, must stand at the bottom of the set for that dance. [ see WILSON1115 ]
EPAYNE17Should any couple while going down the dance have occasion to stop, they must stand out, so as not to disturb the couples that follows them.
EPAYNE18Any couple performing the figure twice with one couple, must always pass or drop a couple. [ see WILSON1113, CHERRY12 ]
EPAYNE19A dance cannot be called twice the same evening, unless a very fashionable one, and by a particular desire of the majority of the Company. [ see WILSON1122, CHERRY20 ]
EPAYNE20No couple should leave the room, or even sit down till the dance is finished, (except for something particular.) [ see WILSON1114, CHERRY13 ]
EPAYNE21When the couple that called the dance has gone down three couple, then the second couple should begin, and so on with all the couples, till the one that called it has regained the Top. [ see WILSON1117, CHERRY14 ]
EPAYNE22When all the couples have gone down the dance, and the couple that called it has recommenced the figure and gained the bottom within three couple, then it may be finished; but the couple that called the dance, must stand at the bottom for the next. [ see WILSON1118, CHERRY15 ]
EPAYNE23At the conclusion of a dance, the Master of the Ceremonies should make a Sign to the Leader of the Band. No Person must commence clapping of their hands. [ see WILSON1124, CHERRY22 ]
EPAYNE24If the company consists of 50 or 60 couple, it is then requisite to divide the party into two sets, sometimes the sets are distinguished by letters, as A first, and B second set; and sometimes they are formed as thus, suppose No 2 had the last call, then the Master of the Ceremonies calls up No 3, No 5, No7, and so on till all the odd numbers are on one side; No 1 being called last and placed at the bottom, and then on the other side is called up No 4, No 6, No 8, and so on till all the even numbers are in the second set, No 2 being called last and placed at the bottom. [ see WILSON1111 ]
EPAYNE25Should the company on one side conceive the other more convenient for dancing, then the application must be made to the Master of the Ceremonies, to exchange the sets at the commencement after each resting dance.
EPAYNE26In large assemblies consisting of a Hundred couple, then it is necessary to divide the company into four sets: Each set is distinguished by letters, as A set, B set, C set, D set. The top couple in A calls the first dance; the top couple in B calls the second; the top couple in C calls the third; and the top couple in D calls the fourth dance; and then the call goes back to the second couple in A the first set, and so on regularly with each set; the set that the call is entitled to, is always called up first.
EPAYNE27Each set ought to contain the same number of couples, as near as possible.
EPAYNE28The different sets must begin the figure at the same time, with the one that sets the figure.
EPAYNE29The Master of the Ceremonies being informed of the figure, and after giving the necessary directions to the different sets; no couple is allowed to make any alteration in the figure, different from the couple that called it. [ see WILSON0810 ]
EPAYNE30No Lady or Gentleman must alter their number or Ticket.
EPAYNE31In some Balls or Assemblies it is their rule to rest at every second dance, others every third.
EPAYNE32No Lady or Gentleman must dance reels, or any other figure in the same room, at the time of a Country Dance. [ see WILSON1120, CHERRY17 ]
EPAYNE33Between the resting dances, no Lady or Gentleman must call a Reel or any other dance without permission of the Master of the Ceremonies, except it is the rule; as in some Assemblies to Waltz, Dance Cotillions, or what may be their custom between their resting dances; then the Master of the Ceremonies will give notice to the company and proper directions to the Band, and at the same time he will only permit the Waltzing or what not, to continue a limited time, when the Majority of the company dance only Country Dances. [ see WILSON1121, CHERRY19 ]
EPAYNE34The Master of the Ceremonies should inform the company at the time Supper is ready, and when it is finished, order the Band to play some fashionable Tune, in order to draw the company out of the Supper Room. [ see WILSON1126 ]
EPAYNE35No Gentleman should be allowed to enter the Ball Room in Boots, Spurs, Gaiters, or with stick or cains in their hands; nor are Trowsers or Pantaloons considered as proper apparel for a Full Dress Ball. [ see WILSON1102, CHERRY02 ]
EPAYNE36The Master of the Ceremonies desire's respecting the dancing, in any think he offers must be attended to. [ see CHERRY24 ]
EPAYNE37Any dispute arising concerning the Dancing, must be refered to the Master of the Ceremonies, and left to his decision. [ see WILSON1125, CHERRY23 ]
EPAYNE38As the regularity and decoram of the Ball depends chiefly on the conductor or conductors – No Person should undertake the management as Master of the Ceremonies, without being fully qualified for the Situation.
Figure 5. Dancing Tickets, date unknown.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Most of the useful information from both Wilson and Cherry is included in this set of regulations, along with a lot of new information, some of which was implied in previous regulations, but not explicitly stated. For example, EPAYNE10 says that ladies may call a Country Dance together in the absence of men, something that was implied in WILSON1107 but not clearly stated. Payne also added some additional new rules to govern how large numbers of dancers are handled, alteration to tickets, governance of rest periods, and how to handle couples leaving early. As with Cherry, Payne's rules don't hint at a rank based precedence system for ladies of title.

A couple of rules that had mysteriously disappeared from Wilson's text between the first and third editions of Analysis of Country Dancing are restored here in Payne's list: WILSON0808 (EPAYNE15) that governed how late arrivals should be handled, and WILSON0810 (EPAYNE29) which forbade the figures being changed mid-dance.

A few rules are especially interesting: EPAYNE12 informs us that the band should play a tune once through before the dance starts, something that hasn't been mentioned elsewhere; EPAYNE33 provides significant new information about the alternative dancing that may be introduced during the rest periods between Country Dances; and EPAYNE38 demands suitable qualification for the Master of Ceremonies.

It is notable that EPAYNE21 emphasises the more common progression system in Country Dancing whereby a new minor set forms after every three iterations of a Country Dance, it doesn't hint at the toleration for additional neutral couples from CHERRY14 (which in turn is a key aspect of the Wilsonian style of Country Dancing). On a similar note, EPAYNE22 matches the convention from CHERRY15 for concluding a Country Dance, rather than Wilsonian system from WILSON1118; Payne presumably made a reasoned decision to change Wilson's rule rather than to blindly copy it.




Thomas Wilson's, A Companion to the Ball Room, 1816

The next major work to be published containing an Etiquette list was Thomas Wilson's 1816 A Companion to the Ball Room. A second and third edition were published in 1817, and a fourth edition some time thereafter. I have access to the second and fourth editions, and find the list to be unchanged between them. I can't be certain whether the rules are the same in the 1816 first edition.

The regulations derive, as might be expected, from the rules in the 3rd edition of Wilson's Analysis of Country Dancing. Significant additional content is included, largely derived from Payne's A New Companion to the Ball Room, from which significant similarities can be detected (especially the suffix to the first rule, which is too similar to Payne's equivalent text to be by chance). He also included information from Cherry, notably the 12th rule which is clearly duplicated. Wilson added some further information of his own, and only selectively included suggestions from Payne.

Wilson introduced his amplified etiquette rules with the following text:

In the following sketch, the minutiae of the duties of the conductor, or of the Company comprising a Ball, have not been entered into, nor are any of the bye-laws and rules belonging to any private or particular Assembly given, being confined only to the Etiquette of such Public and Private Balls, where the persons composing the company take their places in the Dance according to their numbers. At court, and some other select balls and assemblies, places are taken according to Precedence.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Wilson's A Companion to the Ball Room, c.1816 (quoted from 4th ed., c.1820 page 238)
WILSON1601On entering the Ball-room, each Lady intending to dance, must be presented by the Master of the Ceremonies with a ticket, on which is inscribed the number of her Call*, according to which they afterwards take their places in the dance. The first Lady is entitled to No 1+, the second to No. 2, and so on. These numbers should be placed in a conspicuous place, and remain there till the Dancing is finished, to prevent any misunderstanding respecting situations in the dance; for no one can claim a place, without displaying their ticket.

*In some particular companies, it is sometimes found convenient to give the numbers to the Gentlemen instead of the Ladies; this seldom occurs in fashionable parties.
+It is a rule at some Balls, to give the person who takes No 1 another number also, as No 9 (but this is not an established rule, the propriety of it entirely resting with the Master of the Ceremonies) then two of that number are requisite, in case the time will not permit for nine dances; the ninth couple is entitled to their call before No 1. This second number is sometimes given, to induce persons to take No 1, it being sometimes refused, as after their call, they are obliged to stand at the bottom of the room during the rest of the evening; but by others, it is considered an honor to lead off the first Dance. [ see WILSON1101, EPAYNE01, EPAYNE02 ]

WILSON1602Gentlemen are not permitted to enter the Ball Room, in boots, spurs, gaiters, trowsers, or with canes or sticks; nor are loose pantaloons considered proper for a Full Dress Ball. [ see WILSON1102, EPAYNE35 ]
WILSON1603The most proper Dance for opening the Ball is a Minuet. [ see WILSON1103 ]
WILSON1604After the Ball has been opened (should there be an opening dance) it is the duty of the Master of the Ceremonies to call up and place the company in couples according to their numbers, beginning with No 1 at the top, No 2 the next, and so on in succesion, till all the numbers that were given out are called up; that is, to the highest number, which will be placed at the bottom of the set. [ see EPAYNE05 ]
WILSON1605The usual honors of bows and courtesies should be observed at the commencement and conclusion of each dance.
WILSON1606In large Assemblies, it is sometimes requisite to divide the company into divisions or sets, distinguished by figures or letters; but most generally by letters, as A first set, B second, &c.. The top couple in the division or set A call the first dance; then the top couple in the division or set B call the second dance; and afterwards the second couple in A; then second couple in B; and so on throughout each set. When the tickets are not made out for different sets, and the company are too numerous to stand in one set, they may be divided, and all the odd numbers, as No 1, No 3, No 5, No 7, &c. stand in one set; and the even numbers, as No 2, N o4, No 6, No 8, in the other; then the calls will be the same, beginning with No 1 first, afterwards to the other set, which will be No 2, &c.. [ see WILSON1111, EPAYNE24 ]
WILSON1607When it so happens, that the company are divided into two or more Sets, care should be taken in forming the Sets, so that each of them shall if possible contain an equal number with the other; and should it unavoidably occur, as sometimes is the case, that one of the sets contains more than the others, and as more time will be required to finish the dance by that set, the persons composing the other sets, on finishing the Dance, should retire to their seats, till the Dance shall be gone through by each couple in the longest set, and the Master of the Ceremonies declares the Dance finished, and by giving a signal to the leader of the band shall silence the Music. [ see EPAYNE27 ]
WILSON1608When the sets are of an unequal length, as described in the above article, by permission of the Master of the Ceremonies, the shortest set or sets may continue Dancing on till the persons in the set containing the greatest number of persons have completely finished the Dance.
WILSON1609When a company is divided into different sets, no person must attempt to change their set, without permission of the Master of the Ceremonies. [ see EPAYNE25 ]
WILSON1610Any Lady or Gentleman, altering their number, or not producing it when called for, must stand at the bottom of the Dance or set they belong to. [ see EPAYNE30 ]
WILSON1611No couple ought to refuse to stand up directly the Dance is called, as it shews great disrespect to the Lady who calls it. [ see WILSON1105 ]
WILSON1612Two Ladies, or two Gentlemen, cannot dance together, without permission of the Master of the Ceremonies; nor can permission be given while there are an equal number of Ladies and Gentlemen. [ see WILSON1106, EPAYNE08, CHERRY05, CHERRY06 ]
WILSON1613In the absence of Gentlemen, when Ladies are permitted to form couples, and in the absence of Ladies, when it occurs that Gentlemen are permitted to form couples, they must always stand at the bottom of the set. [ see WILSON1107, EPAYNE09 ]
WILSON1614Ladies or Gentlemen forming couples, are not entitled to call according to either of their numbers, without the permission of the Master of the Ceremonies, as they lose their privilege by standing up together; and it is entirely optional with the Master of the Ceremonies to permit two Gentlemen to stand together.
WILSON1615Should any Lady lose her Number, on application to the Master of the Ceremonies, she should be furnished with another, according to which she must take her place in the Dance. [ see WILSON1108, EPAYNE03 ]
WILSON1616Ladies and Gentlemen being without partners, should apply to the Master of the Ceremonies, whose place it is, if possible to provide them. [ see WILSON1116, EPAYNE11 ]
WILSON1617All persons standing up after the Dance has commenced, must stand at the bottom of the set for that Dance, and take their place according to their number in the next. [ see WILSON1115, EPAYNE16 ]
WILSON1618Any person standing up, without the knowledge of the Master of the Ceremonies, and found in a wrong place according to their number, must be placed at the bottom of the set.
WILSON1619Any couple wishing to retire early, should deliver their number to the Master of the Ceremonies, that he may know such a couple is absent when the numbers are called up. [ see EPAYNE07 ]
WILSON1620The couple about to call the Dance, should inform the Master of the Ceremonies of the Tune and Figure, that he may give directions to the different sets (if more than one) and direct the band accordingly; the Tune should be once played over before the Dance commences. [ see WILSON1109, EPAYNE12 ]
WILSON1621The Master of the Ceremonies can object to any call that affords reasonable ground of complaint, such as length or difficulty of Figure; but the couple whose call is rejected, have the liberty of calling another dance less objectionable and more suitable to the ability of the company. [ see WILSON1110, EPAYNE13 ]
WILSON1622Should any couple after calling a Dance, find themselves incapable of performing it, they may call another; but if the same difficulty occurs in the second call, the Master of the Ceremonies may transfer the call to the next couple, and place the couple so failing at the bottom of the set. [ see WILSON1112, EPAYNE14 ]
WILSON1623Should any couple stop, or perform the same Figure twice with the same couple, they must drop one couple, or stand out, as they must not interrupt those that follow in the same Figure. [ see WILSON1113, EPAYNE17, EPAYNE18 ]
WILSON1624The different sets (if there be more than one) should all begin the Figure at the same time as the one that calls the Dance. [ see EPAYNE28 ]
WILSON1625When the couple calling the Dance has gone down three* couples, the second couple should begin, and so on with all the couples in succession, till after the one that called it has regained the top and proceeded again three couple downwards, where the Dance is finished; and the couple that called it must stand at the bottom for the next Dance.

*It has been always usual for the second couple to go off as soon as the top couple have gone down three couple; but this frequently proves very inconvenient, particularly when the figures occupy the whole three couple, as Swing or turn Corners, Hands six Round, &c.; then a dance appears all bustle, by not having a neutral couple between to divide each minor set, as they are termed, therefore it is better to go down four couple instead of three, before the second couple set off. [ see WILSON1117, WILSON1118, EPAYNE21, EPAYNE22, CHERRY14, CHERRY15 ]

WILSON1626When a Dance is finished, the Master of the Ceremonies should give the signal to the leader of the band to leave off, to prevent any unnecessary Noise, or Clapping of Hands. [ see WILSON1124, EPAYNE23 ]
WILSON1627No person should leave the room, or even sit down, before the Dance is finished (unless on some very particular occasion; and not then, without first informing the Master of the Ceremonies. [ see WILSON1114, EPAYNE20 ]
WILSON1628It is the duty of the Master of the Ceremonies alone to direct the band; and for the band to obey no other person.
WILSON1629No person should leave the room immediately after they have had their call, without the Dancing is concluded for the evening, as it evinces great disrespect to the company. [ see WILSON1123 ]
WILSON1630No dance ought to be performed twice the same evening. [ see WILSON1122, EPAYNE19 ]
WILSON1631Such persons as may dislike any Dance that is called, instead of interrupting its performance, or endeavouring by any means to have the same altered should retire to their seats.
WILSON1632No person during a Country Dance, should hiss, clap, or make any other noise, to interrupt the good order of the company. [ see WILSON1119 ]
WILSON1633No Lady or Gentleman must, during a Country Dance, attempt at Reels, or any other Figures, in the same room. [ see WILSON1120, EPAYNE32 ]
WILSON1634Snapping the fingers, in Country Dancing and Reels, and the sudden howl or yell* too frequently practiced, ought to be avoided, as partaking too much of the customs of barbarous nations; the character and effect by such means given to the Dance, being adapted only to the stage, and by no means suited to the Ball Room.

*Introduced in some Scotch parties as partly national with them.

WILSON1635No person is entitled to two calls the same evening, (unless in their turn with the others) without the permission of the Master of the Ceremonies.
WILSON1636Between the Country Dances, no person is permitted to introduce Reels, Waltzes, Quadrilles, Cotillions, or any other Dance whatever, without the permission of the Master of the Ceremonies. [ see WILSON1121, EPAYNE33 ]
WILSON1637A number transferred is not entitled to a call, if the original possessor has retired from the Ball.
WILSON1638Changing partners in all Balls and Assemblies ought to be optional, as in many companies it is more properly convenient.
WILSON1639All disputes respecting the Dancing must be referred to the Master of the Ceremonies, and his decision abided by. [ see WILSON1125, EPAYNE37 ]
WILSON1640Immediate attention should be paid to any request regarding the Dancing made by the Master of the Ceremonies, otherwise his conducting the Ball will be attended with the utmost inconvenience. [ see EPAYNE36, CHERRY24 ]
WILSON1641After a Dance is called, no person is allowed to change the Figure in any manner whatever. [ see EPAYNE29 ]
WILSON1642Should any Lady after calling a dance, which is not objectionable to the Master of the Ceremonies, find it too difficult for the company, she may be permitted to change it for one less difficult; but not to lead off again from the top, without permission of the Master of the Ceremonies.
WILSON1643When the Ball commences, the company should not leave their places, or rest, till after the second Dance. Should the sets be short, they may Dance three Dances before they rest. During the remainder of the evening, it is the business of the Master of the Ceremonies to direct the company as to the proper time for resting. [ see EPAYNE31 ]
WILSON1644At public Assemblies where supper is given, the Master of the Ceremonies should inform the company when supper is ready; and when it is finished, and the company are disposed to return to the Ball Room, the Master of the Ceremonies should order the band to play some appropriate Tune, to bring the company in the Ball Room. [ see WILSON1126, EPAYNE34 ]
WILSON1645The Master of the Ceremonies should wear a sash, or some conspicuous ensignia, to distinguish him from the rest of the company. [ see WILSON1127 ]
WILSON1646Persons should be very careful in taking upon themselves the office of Master of the Ceremonies, unless properly and fully qualified for that office, as they take upon themselves very great responsibility. [ see EPAYNE38 ]
WILSON1647To preserve greater order, and to prevent disputes, it is advisable, that the proprietors, or the conductors of Public Balls and Assemblies, should have the foregoing Etiquette, particularly so much of it as relates to the company, written and hung up in some conspicuous part of the room* during such evenings as the Balls or Assemblies may be held.

*The Author has never yet had occasion to resort to such a measure; but doubts not it will be found to facilitate the comfort of such companies as observe it, and particularly where the Master of the Ceremonies is not generally known; for in such cases, his capability is frequently disputed, and his authority consequently treated with contempt.

Figure 6. Jubilee Ball Ticket, Dublin, 1809

© National Library of Ireland

This extensive set of rules contain many interesting fragments of information, but most of them are derived either from Payne's rules, or from Wilson's earlier rules. It's notable that the only substantive additions Cherry made to Wilson's 1811 rules are both included here (see WILSON1612 and WILSON1640). This set of rules might therefore be seen as a composite of the best of all three writers.

The only rule Wilson dropped from the third edition of his Analysis of Country Dancing is rule WILSON1104 that referred to Minuet dancing, though he continued to assert that the Minuet was the most correct way to start a Ball (WILSON1603) - a rule he probably found convenient for his own public balls, where he would dance a Minuet or similar dance at the start of the program. He also omitted some of Payne's rules: EPAYNE06 that demanded alacrity once a number was announced; EPAYNE15 which allowed for tardiness; and EPAYNE26 which envisioned 100 or more Country Dancing couples. Wilson's WILSON1613 rule is also somewhat interesting as it appears to contradict Payne's EPAYNE10, a rule that allowed ladies to dance together and yet retain their opportunities to call a dance.

New rules added by Wilson for this publication include: WILSON1605, requiring honours at the start and end of each dance; rules covering unequal length Country Dancing sets in the same room; the behaviour when both dancers have a ticketed number and potentially change partners; dancers who are found to be troublesome; and the advantages of displaying bye-laws.

Perhaps the most interesting rule is WILSON1625 which explores the distinctively Wilsonian characteristics of Country Dancing. He provided a footnote that justified his reasons for injecting neutral couples between minor sets in a Country Dance, resulting in a request to start a new minor set every 4th iteration (similar to CHERRY14) rather than every third; and yet he continued to promote the Wilsonian ending to a Country Dance from WILSON1118, having apparently rejected the modifications made by Cherry in CHERRY15 and Payne in EPAYNE22.




G.M.S. Chivers', Pocket Companion to French & English Dancing, 1818

The next major work I know of to be published featuring a Ball Room Etiquette guide is the Pocket Companion to French & English Dancing by G.M.S (George) Chivers. Chivers' etiquette rules are related to the earlier lists, but not sufficiently closely to be sure of their provenance. He may have taken one of Wilson's books, or Payne's book, and crafted his own list from it; but he seems to have adapted the details to suit his purposes, resulting in an original work. Many of the details from Wilson's combined list in the Companion to the Ball Room are absent from Chivers' list, but it's not clear why. Chivers may have felt they were superfluous, he may have been working with an earlier list, or he may have constructed his own list for his own reasons. It's also possible that an intermediate source (such as the first edition of Wilson's Companion to the Ball Room) may have existed, and Chivers worked from that.

One point of interest is that Chivers and Wilson were professionally estranged. They took any opportunities they could find to be unkind towards each other in their publications, thus a couple of Chivers' footnotes are probably aimed against Wilson. This will become more clear in some of Chivers' later publications.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Chivers' Pocket Companion to French & English Dancing, 1818 (page 35)
CHIVERS1801The Master of the Ceremonies should present the first Lady or Gentleman*, with No. 1, and so on as they enter.

*Some conductors give the Ladies the Numbers, others the Gentlemen; but I should conceive the latter more correct, particularly if any altercation takes place, though I have heard say, if the Ladies don't have a Number, they have no call, which is erroneous, for a Gentleman will always consult the Lady first. [ see WILSON1601 ]

CHIVERS1802The Lady or Gentleman that retains the Number cannot claim their place unless such Number is apparent on their dress. [ see WILSON1601 ]
CHIVERS1803Any Lady or Gentleman not provided with a partner, should apply to the Master of the Ceremonies. [ see WILSON1616 ]
CHIVERS1804Any Person not attending to the call of their Number, must stand at bottom for that Dance - the same to be observed if standing up after the dance has began. If the couple that called the Dance have gone down it, you can stand the couple before them, which is then considered the bottom. [ see WILSON1617 ]
CHIVERS1805Any Lady refusing to dance with a Gentleman, if disengaged, will be under the penalty of not joining the two next dances.
CHIVERS1806No person should leave the Set, until the dance is finished. [ see WILSON1627 ]
CHIVERS1807No Dance to be called twice the same Evening. [ see WILSON1630 ]
CHIVERS1808Should any person loose their Number, they should apply for another, or they cannot claim their place. [ see WILSON1615 ]
CHIVERS1809After the first couple have gone down three, the second couple begin: and when the first couple has been to the bottom, returned to top, and are within three couple of the bottom,* the Dance is finished – they stand at bottom for the next dance.

*In some Assemblies when the couple who called the Dance have gone down three the second time, it terminates, which is evidently wrong, for if there are fifteen couple dancing in the set, and No 1 has regained the top, the 15th couple have then gone three, and when the 1st couple has gone down three, the 15th have only gone down six, which is not going down half the dance – but if No 1 goes within three couple of the bottom, the 15th have then gone down, which is the only way for every couple to go down the dance. [ see WILSON1625 ]

CHIVERS1810Two Ladies cannot dance together if there are Gentlemen in the room. - The same to be observed by the gentlemen. [ see WILSON1612 ]
CHIVERS1811Two Gentlemen dancing together, in the absence of Ladies, they stand at bottom of the Set - who cannot take a call. [ see WILSON1613 ]
CHIVERS1812A change of partners every two dances, if agreeable. [ see WILSON1638 ]
CHIVERS1813Persons desirous of Dancing Minuets, Quadrilles, Waltzes, &c. &c. should acquaint the Master of the Ceremonies, who will give directions to the Band. [ see WILSON1636 ]
CHIVERS1814No Lady or Gentleman during a Country Dance to change the figure. [ see WILSON1641 ]
CHIVERS1815Any Person not taking their call, their Number is forfeited.
CHIVERS1816No Person is permitted to Dance in Boots or Gaiters. [ see WILSON1602 ]
CHIVERS1817Any Person performing the figure twice, with the same couple, must drop one couple, or should they stop, they must also drop a couple. [ see WILSON1623 ]
CHIVERS1818Any Person leaving the Room immediately they have their call, will be improper, as they should not take their call if they cannot stop after. [ see WILSON1629 ]
CHIVERS1819Any couple calling a Dance, and not able to perform it, are at liberty to call another, but if the same difficulty occurs, they must let the next couple call. [ see WILSON1622 ]
CHIVERS1820When a large party are divided into two Sets, they are generally distinguished by Set A and Set B the odd numbers are on the A side, and even numbers on B side, No 1, A Set, calls first, and No. 2, Set B calls second, and so on from one Set to another. [ see WILSON1606 ]
CHIVERS1821If the company are so numerous as to require a division of three or four sets, they are distinguished thus: A set, B set, C set, and D set.— No. l. A set, calls first — No. l. B set, calls second — No. l. C set, calls third — No. l. D set, calls fourth. Then No. 2. set A calls, and so on in rotation. [ see EPAYNE26 ]
CHIVERS1822No Person can pass from one Set to another without permission of the Master of the Ceremonies. [ see WILSON1609 ]
CHIVERS1823In all disputes the Persons so concerned should leave the Room with the Master of the Ceremonies, and not return 'till both parties are reconciled. [ see WILSON1639 ]
CHIVERS1824To commit the following is considered a great breach of good manners:
CHIVERS1824AObjecting to stand up when a dance is called. [ see WILSON1611 ]
CHIVERS1824BClapping of hands when a dance is finished. [ see WILSON1626 ]
CHIVERS1824CHolding the hands of another too fast.
CHIVERS1824DIntroducing Hornpipe or beating steps.
CHIVERS1825The Master of the Ceremonies should have some external mark, to distinguish him from the Company. [ see WILSON1645 ]
Figure 7. Ticket for the Doncaster Assemblies, 1808.

© Trustees of the British Museum

These rules are broadly consistent with those of Wilson's Companion to the Ball Room, though a great many of Wilson's rules are missing. There are also some new rules here, notably CHIVERS1805 that forbids a disengaged Lady to refuse to dance with a Gentleman, and CHIVERS1824C/CHIVERS1824D that forbid certain steps and overly tight holding of hands.

The CHIVERS1801 rule is interesting as the clarifying footnote contradicts the equivalent footnote in WILSON1601, it may be an example of Chivers being deliberately contrary with respect to Wilson. CHIVERS1809 is even more interesting, as it directly pertains to the Wilsonian style of Country Dancing described in WILSON1625; Chivers provided a reasonable explanation for why Wilson's system would be inferior in practice - the last couple in a longways set would only have six turns as a top couple before the dance ends. It's not the devastating blow to the Wilsonian convention Chivers perhaps intended it to be, but he is consistent with both Cherry (CHERRY15) and Payne (EPAYNE22) in disagreeing with Wilson.




Thomas Wilson's, Complete System of English Country Dancing, 1820

The next major work to consider is Thomas Wilson's 1820 Complete System of English Country Dancing. Early versions of this work may have been available in 1816 and 1818, but the work didn't achieve its final form until the 1820 publication (which may have been the first edition, the historical record isn't clear). It included yet another set of etiquette rules, but this time they were almost identical to those of Wilson's Companion to the Ball Room.

This new list of regulations only involve a single new rule and an extended footnote, the rest are the existing rules duplicated verbatim with only inconsequential grammatical changes. The updates extend the rules to reference other dance forms that Wilson promoted at his own Public Balls.

The table below only shows the differences compared to the Companion to the Ball Room.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Wilson's Complete System of English Country Dancing, 1820 (page 259)
This table only shows the differences compared to Wilson's Companion to the Ball Room. Rule WILSON2009.5 should be seen as being inserted between WILSON1609 and WILSON1610, and rule WILSON2025 should be seen as replacing rule WILSON1625.
WILSON2009.5When Quadrilles are intended to be Danced, a separate Set of Quadrille numbers should be given out, independent of the numbers of the general dancing, as Country Dancing, Ecossoises, &c.; the usual numbers in the Quadrille Sets, are either 8, 12, or 16, which is the greatest numbers contained in any Set of Quadrilles. The distribution of these numbers, with the arrangement of the Sets, must be left to the direction of the Master of the Ceremonies.
WILSON2025When the couple calling the Dance has gone down three* couples, the second couple should begin, and so on with all the couples in succession, till after the one that called it has regained the top and proceeded again three couple downwards, where the Dance is finished; and the couple that called it must stand at the bottom for the next Dance.

*It has been always usual for the second couple to go off as soon as the top couple have gone down three couple; but this frequently proves very inconvenient, particularly when the figures occupy the whole three couple, as Swing or turn Corners, Hands six Round, &c.; then a dance appears all bustle, by not having a neutral couple between to divide each minor set, as they are termed, therefore it is better to go down four couple instead of three, before the second couple set off. In Spanish Dances, and Ecossoises, the leading couples may go every three couple, as none of the Figures in these named Dances, require more than two couple to their performance, therefore the third is always the neutral couple.

Figure 8. Assorted tickets for the King Street Assembly (Almack's), 1770s.

© Trustees of the British Museum

This set of rules are notable for being extended to cover additional dance forms. There had been passing references to Quadrille dancing in previous sets of rules (such as WILSON1636), but for the first time the organisation of the Quadrille is discussed. The numbers for Quadrille dancing in WILSON2009.5 have to be allocated separately to those for general dancing. These new rules also mention the Ecossoises dance form (that was introduced by Wilson in 1817) and Spanish Dances (introduced by Payne c.1815).

It's also notable that the distinctively Wilsonian style of Country Dancing described in WILSON2025 continued to promote the Wilsonian ending to a Country Dance, despite Cherry (CHERRY15), Payne (EPAYNE22) and Chivers (CHIVERS1809) uniting in disagreeing with him. Wilson had clearly made a conscious decision to persevere with his own system of Country Dancing, despite the rest of the industry openly disagreeing with him.




G.M.S. Chivers', The Dancers' Guide, 1821

The next major publication to feature a Ball Room Etiquette guide was G.M.S. Chivers' 1821 The Dancers' Guide. This publication, as might be expected, is heavily based on the set of rules from Chivers' 1818 Pocket Companion to French & English Dancing, though significantly reworded; but it also contains a rich collection of new rules. The new information seems to have been supplied by Chivers himself, rather than duplicating information from earlier publications (a few of the changes may have been influenced by Wilson or another source); some of the changes further Chivers' anti-Wilsonian agenda.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Chivers The Dancers' Guide, 1821 (page 87)
CHIVERS2101The Master of the Ceremonies should present the first Lady or Gentleman*, with No. 1, and so on as they enter.

*Some conductors give the ladies the numbers, others the gentlemen; but I should conceive the latter more correct, particularly if any altercation takes place, for it would be unpleasant for a lady to argue about her situation, in short, many would rather put up with the inconvenience; though I have heard say, if the ladies have no number they have no call, which is erroneous, for a gentleman will always consult the Lady first. [ see CHIVERS1801 ]

CHIVERS2102Ladies or gentlemen not having the numbers given them apparent on their dress, cannot claim their place in the dance. [ see CHIVERS1802 ]
CHIVERS2103Persons in chusing a tune for a figure, should be careful in selecting such as have the same number of parts as the figure requires, and also acquaint the Conductor of the figure that he may give directions to the different sets.
CHIVERS2104It is requisite to make an obeisance to your partner at the commencement of a Quadrille, or any other style of Dancing, while the first part of the tune is played over, and that part of the tune is repeated for the commencement of the figure in the Contre Danses; but in Quadrilles the dance generally commences with the second part.
CHIVERS2105Any lady or Gentleman not provided with a partner, should apply to the Master of the Ceremonies. [ see CHIVERS1803 ]
CHIVERS2106When the Master of the Ceremonies calls the numbers, those that retain them should answer.
CHIVERS2107Any lady, if disengaged, refusing to dance with a gentleman, will be under the penalty of not joining the next dance, and consequently may be considered no lady, unless indisposition is the cause. [ see CHIVERS1805 ]
CHIVERS2108No person should leave the Set, until the dance is finished. [ see CHIVERS1806 ]
CHIVERS2109Should any person loose their number, they should apply for another, or they cannot claim their place in the dance. [ see CHIVERS1808 ]
CHIVERS2110No person is permitted to dance in boots or gaiters, nor should any one attempt to enter a ball room so equipped. [ see CHIVERS1816 ]
CHIVERS2111Any couple objecting to stand up when a dance is called, is highly improper. [ see CHIVERS1824A ]
CHIVERS2112Clapping of hands when a dance is finished, holding the hands of another too fast, introducing hornpipe or beating steps, are also contrary to good manners. [ see CHIVERS1824B, CHIVERS1824C, CHIVERS1824D ]
CHIVERS2113No person should pass from one set to another without permission of the Master of the Ceremonies, nor should any one either change or alter their number. [ see CHIVERS1822 ]
CHIVERS2114During the performance of any style of dancing, persons should avoid conversing, as it only tends to create confusion and never characterises the lady or gentleman so doing.
CHIVERS2115In all disputes, the persons concerned should leave the room with the Master of the Ceremonies, and not return till both parties are reconciled. [ see CHIVERS1823 ]
CHIVERS2116Persons desirous of dancing Minuets, Quadrilles, Waltzes, Spanish, English or any other style of dancing, should acquaint the Master of the Ceremonies, that he may give directions to the leader of the band*, who should not attend to any other person.

*It would be preferable for the Conductor of Assemblies to have their Rules hung in a conspicuous part of the room, in which should be particularly expressed what species of dancing is permitted to be performed, and in what succession. [ see CHIVERS1813 ]

CHIVERS2117No Lady or Gentleman during any dance to change the figure. [ see CHIVERS1814 ]
CHIVERS2118The Master of the Ceremonies should have some external mark, to distinguish him from the rest of the company (if not generally known). [ see CHIVERS1825 ]
CHIVERS2119No dance should be called twice the same evening, unless by particular desire of the company. [ see CHIVERS1807 ]
CHIVERS2120Two ladies cannot dance together if there are gentlemen in the room. - The same rule is to be observed by the gentlemen. [ see CHIVERS1810 ]
CHIVERS2121In leading down the middle you should not exceed the fourth couple.
CHIVERS2122Persons not attending when their number is called, must stand at the bottom during that dance, the same to be observed if they stand up after the dance has began*, nor should any person permit another to stand above them after the set is formed.

*All persons joining the dance after the first couple have been down it, may stand before the said couple that called the dance. [ see CHIVERS1804 ]

CHIVERS2123It is highly improper for a person to call a dance, and leave the room immediately after it is finished, or even to sit down when they get to the bottom of the dance. [ see CHIVERS1818 ]
CHIVERS2124Two gentlemen dancing together in the absence of ladies, cannot take a call, and must stand at the bottom of the set; but if two ladies are dancing together in the absence of gentlemen, they are not to go to bottom. [ see CHIVERS1811 ]
CHIVERS2125A change of partners should take place (if agreeable) after every two dances, and at which time the Quadrilles, Waltzes, &c. &c. Can be introduced. [ see CHIVERS1812 ]
CHIVERS2126Persons not taking their call, forfeit their number, that is, they are to stand at bottom, and the next number call the Dance. [ see CHIVERS1815 ]
CHIVERS2127Persons performing the figure twice, with the same couple, must drop one couple, or should they stop, they must also drop a couple. [ see CHIVERS1817 ]
CHIVERS2128Any couple calling a dance, and not able to perform it, are at liberty to call another; but if the same difficulty occurs, they must let the next couple call. [ see CHIVERS1819 ]
CHIVERS2129When a large party are divided into two sets; they are generally distinguished by Set A and Set B; the odd numbers are on the A side, and the even numbers on B side; No 1, A Set, call first, and No. 2, B Set calls second, and so on, in rotation. [ see CHIVERS1820 ]
CHIVERS2130If the company are so numerous as to require a division of three or four sets, they are distinguished thus: A set, B set, C set, D set.——The rotation of the calls are generally thus: No. l. A set, calls first — No. l. B set, calls second — No. l. C set, calls third — No. l. D set, calls fourth. Then No. 2. set A calls, and so on in rotation from one set to the other.*

*To divide a party into four sets or more, it would be preferable for the top couples of each set to arrange a Dance, as a call of the whole, and when finished, each couple to take bottom; which would remove the inconvenience of the last couple of D set, from remaining at bottom for four dances, which is generally complained of, and must evidently take place if the top couples of each set remain at top until they call. Many parties adopt the method of giving cards to specify what dances will be performed. [ see CHIVERS1821 ]

CHIVERS2131All figures should so terminate as to cause the leading couple (i.e. the lady and gentleman that are going down the dance) to drop one couple, and those who are working up the dance should move progressively up one couple at a time.
CHIVERS2132After the first couple have gone down three couples the second should begin; and when the first couple, on going down the dance a second time, are within three couples of the bottom, the dance is finished,* but the other couples at top should keep their places, as none should go down the dance a second time but the couple that called it.

*In some Assemblies the dance is supposed to be finished when the leading couple have only gone down three the second time. This is evidently wrong, for supposing the dance to consist of fifteen couple, the last will thus have only gone down six, which is not half down the dance; and some teachers will still persist in their old plan, because they are ashamed to acknowledge their error. [ see CHIVERS1809 ]

CHIVERS2133During the performance of a Quadrille or of a Contre Danse, &c. no person should attempt any other style of dancing in the same room.
CHIVERS2134The couple that called the dance should stand at bottom for the next dance, and each couple doing the same as they call.
CHIVERS2135All persons on entering an Assembly Room, should observe whether their rules vary, which will require the same attention as those given, for there are few rooms, but what have some bye laws.
CHIVERS2136The Master of the Ceremonies should be particularly attended to, and no person should take such situations unless fully competent.
CHIVERS2137I have not given any description of dress that is requisite for a Ball, as it is generally known; Naval and Military Officers in their uniform is considered full dress, and a Cavalry Officer in boots and spurs cannot be objected to.
CHIVERS2138It is custom on the continent at all public and many private Balls, to engage a Maitre de Danse, to act as Conductor, and if adopted in this country it would generally tend to prevent confusion in any figures, which too often occurs through improper Conductors.
Figure 9. Assorted tickets for the Hanover Square Festinos, 1780s, signed by Sir John Gallini.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Every one of the rules from Pocket Companion to French & English Dancing is present in this set of rules, though often with additional clarifying information. What's more interesting are the new rules. These include: CHIVERS2103 which required the caller to pick compatible tunes and figures; CHIVERS2104 that governed the honours at the start of a dance, especially a Quadrille; CHIVERS2114 which discouraged talking; and CHIVERS2131 which required progressive figures.

A more interesting rule is CHIVERS2121 which required that couples leading down a Country Dance should not exceed the fourth couple. This is important as it pertains to a significant attribute of Wilsonian Country Dancing - that a lead-down only travels as far as the second couple, and takes a half-measure of music. Wilson's style of leading-down a set was prevalent during the Regency era, but it wasn't universal; Chivers may have been taking a dig at Wilson by explicitly indicating that a non-Wilsonian lead-down remained legitimate.

The anti-Wilsonian rhetoric is much more clear in CHIVERS2132, the footnote to which extended that in CHIVERS1809. This was the rule that explicitly commented on the Wilsonian method for concluding a Country Dance. No longer content at merely disagreeing with Wilson's WILSON2025 rule (and predecessors such as WILSON1625), he added that some teachers will still persist in their old plan, because they are ashamed to acknowledge their error. Wilson was unique in promoting his concluding style to a Country Dance, Cherry (CHERRY15) and Payne (EPAYNE22) also disagreed with him.




G.M.S. Chivers', The Modern Dancing Master, 1822

The next major work to include a Ball Room Etiquette guide is the 1822 The Modern Dancing Master by G.M.S. Chivers. The etiquette list therein is very similar to that of his 1821 The Dancers' Guide, every rule from 1821 survived into the 1822 publication, with minor editorial changes. Some of the footnotes from 1821 became complete rules in 1822, some minor rewording and grammatical corrections are also evident, and the sequence of the rules changed. The only change of significance is the addition of one entirely new rule.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Chivers' The Modern Dancing Master, 1822 (page 33)
This table only shows the differences compared to Chivers' The Dancers' Guide. The sequence of the list did change between the two books, and other unimportant changes are omitted.
CHIVERS2218Dancing Masters, and others giving Public Balls, should provide each person with a Card, as they enter the Ball Room, specifying the different Dances that are to be performed, which will enable the company to perform the Quadrilles, &c, with greater precision.
Figure 10. Example Quadrille Card, Manchester, c.1822

This new rule has some similarity to rule CHIVERS2130 which also mentioned dance cards. Dance cards were a relatively new phenomenon, the need for which was brought about by the success of Quadrille dancing in England. The early Quadrilles, unlike most other social dance forms of the time, were choreographed. Dancers needed to know the figures that were to be danced. If the Dancing Master could provide cards, or fans, with the figures printed on them, that could greatly simplify the process of learning and then dancing the Quadrilles. Some examples of these dance cards have survived, see for example a collection of Chivers' Quadrille cards. It's possible that such cards allowed dancers to pre-arrange their partners in advance of a planned dance; this convention became common later in the 19th Century, and perhaps evolved from this initial convention for sharing the figures.

Figure 10 shows an example such card c.1822 with the figures for Pain, (of Almack's) first Set of Quadrilles, as taught by F. Cooper, Manchester.




Analysis of the London Ball-Room, 1825

Our next major work was published anonymously in 1825 under the name Analysis of the London Ball Room. It's sometimes ascribed to Thomas Wilson, but is so dissimilar to other Wilsonian works that I find that most improbable. The Ball Room etiquette list in this publication is interesting as it's clearly based on those that went before, but is rewritten in such a way that it's hard to discern a single specific predecessor. Most of the rules identified are included in most of the preceding regulations, so this work may have been an attempt at listing the most commonly agreed rules.

The text of some of the rules have a slightly Chiverian tone, so I suspect the author had a Chiverian publication to work from, amongst others. For example, one of the rules refers to suspending the regulations in a conspicuous place, which is a feature of the Chiverian lists; another refers to dispute arbitration involving leaving the room, another feature of Chivers' lists.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Anonymous Analysis of the London Ball-Room, 1825 (page 60)
ANLOBR01The Honors [ see CHIVERS2104 ]
ANLOBR02The Master of the Ceremonies should be distinguished by some external mark of office, most commonly a bow, riband, or sash. [ see CHIVERS2118 ]
ANLOBR03A number, specifying the place in the dance, should be presented to each lady on entering the room by the M. C.. [ see CHIVERS2101 ]
ANLOBR04A loss of the number may be remedied by application to the M. C.. [ see CHIVERS2109 ]
ANLOBR05The M. C. would find his labour diminished, if preparatory to the dance, the order and succession were determined upon, and suspended with the other Rules and Regulations of the Assembly in a conspicuous part of the room. A very frequent arrangement of dancing is to commence with two Country-dances, after follows a set of Quadrilles, a Spanish-dance occasionally being substituted for a Country-dance. [ see CHIVERS2116 ]
ANLOBR06Should the company be so numerous as to require to be divided into two, three, or more sets, this arrangement of precedence is recommended; suppose four sets — let them be distinguished by letters as the ladies by figures, set A, set B, set C, set D — No. 1, set A, is first entitled to name the dance, at the conclusion of which the appointment of the second will be expected from No. 1, set B, the nomination of the third from No. 1, set C, and the fourth from No. 1, set D, after which the same rotation will be observed commencing with No. 2, set A. At the conclusion of each dance, the lady and gentleman who led off will remain at the bottom. [ see CHIVERS2130 ]
ANLOBR07The figure and tune being selected, the M. C. should be informed of it, who will make it known to the other sets and to the musicians. [ see CHIVERS2103 ]
ANLOBR08Ladies, not availing themselves of the privilege of naming the dance, will take their place at the bottom, the set next in order then having the nomination. [ see CHIVERS2122 ]
ANLOBR09It is usual after the leading couple have performed the figures down three couple, for those at the top to begin, and generally it is sufficient, but if the dance should be composed of more than three figures, to prevent confusion and to give the necessary distinctness to each performance, a wider separation is recommended. [ see CHIVERS2132 ]
ANLOBR10The dance is finished when the couple last performing have gone through the dance, those who called it leading from the top till it be finished. [ see CHIVERS2132 ]
ANLOBR11No lady can pass from one set to another, nor can a transfer of numbers take place, without the permission of the M. C.. [ see CHIVERS2113 ]
ANLOBR12The same dance should not be called twice the same evening. [ see CHIVERS2119 ]
ANLOBR13No person should leave the set till the dance is finished. [ see CHIVERS2108 ]
ANLOBR14A lady or gentleman wishing to dance, and not being provided with a partner, should apply to the M. C.. [ see CHIVERS2105 ]
ANLOBR15The dance being arranged, no change of figure can be permitted. [ see CHIVERS2117 ]
ANLOBR16Two ladies cannot dance together if there be gentlemen without partners. This rule will not admit of application to gentlemen. [ see CHIVERS2120 ]
ANLOBR17The customary mode of changing partners is between every two dances, if a Quadrille or any other dance be introduced, partners are also changed, but this rule is irregular. [ see CHIVERS2125 ]
ANLOBR18The M. C. is the arbitrator in all disputes, who with the parties should leave the room. [ see CHIVERS2115 ]
ANLOBR19The Honors
Figure 11. Alexander Wills' annual ball at the Hanover Rooms, 1786. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This list is unexceptional, but if Chivers was an influence, the author was prepared to rewrite them quite significantly. An unusual feature is that the list begins and ends with The Honors, presumably a joke indicating that dances should begin and end with Honours (as in WILSON1605). The reference in ANLOBR17 indicating that the changing of partners is irregular is interesting, it hints that the conventions were not as established as some of the other publications might lead us to suspect.

One important aspect of this set of rules involves ANLOBR09 and ANLOBR10. These rules refer to the Wilsonian style of Country Dancing. The first acknowledges the use of neutral couples between minor sets, somewhat like CHERRY14; what's most interesting is that the author provided a different justification from that used by Wilson in WILSON2025, they encouraged additional neutral couples if the dance has more than three figures. The second of these two rules describes the ending of a Country Dance, and as with most previous writers, this author disagrees with Wilson (WILSON2025); but the author has found a new (and better) way to describe the preferred ending.




W.H. Woakes', An Essay on the Attitudes, 1825

Our next publication is the 1825 An Essay on the Attitudes Derived from Gesture to be Attended to in Dancing published in 1825 by W.H. Woakes. Woakes is an interesting writer; he was a dancing master from the Chelmsford/Gloucester/Hereford area, one of only a few of our authors who practised outside of London. He claimed to have been taught in Paris by Monsieur Coulon, yet was a close copyist (and presumably disciple) of G.M.S. Chivers. He printed an advert in 1833 (Gloucestershire Chronicle, 27th July 1833) in which he claimed to have been a member of the Royal Academy in Paris for 9 years, suggesting that this publication was released shortly after returning from Paris. The title page of the 1825 book describes him as a Student of the Royal Academy, Paris rather than a Member. His work in the 1830s focussed on anatomy, bone structure and the importance of gymnastic exercises. He's also remembered as the discoverer (and consumer) of a giant mushroom two feet eleven inches in circumference (Leicester Chronicle, 8th October 1825).

His list of etiquette rules are interesting as being clearly derived from two sources: the anonymous Analysis of the London Ball Room, and one of G.M.S. Chivers' later publications. He appears to have started by copying the Analysis list, then replaced many of them with the equivalent rules from Chivers verbatim, and added in a lot of extra rules from Chivers. He clearly had copies of both books to hand; his dancing repertoire featured dances invented by Chivers, which leads me to suspect that he had spent time at the Chivers Academy in London.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Woakes' An Essay on the Attitudes, 1825 (page 32)
WOAKES01The Master of the Ceremonies* should be distinguished by some external mark of office, most commonly a Sash, Riband, or Bow.

*It is custom on the Continent, at all public and generally at private Balls, to engage a Maitre de Danse, to act as Conductor, and, if it were adopted in this country, much of the present confusion in dancing of the figures would be consequently prevented. [ see CHIVERS2138, ANLOBR02 ]

WOAKES02A number, specifying the place in a dance, should be presented to each lady or gentleman* on entering the room by the M. C..

*Some Conductors give the ladies the numbers, others the Gentlemen, but I conceive the latter to be more correct, particularly if any altercation takes place, for it would be unpleasant for a Lady to argue about her situation; in short, many would put up with the inconvenience. [ see CHIVERS2101, ANLOBR03 ]

WOAKES03The loss of a number may be remedied by application to the M. C. or they can not claim their place in the dance. [ see CHIVERS2109, ANLOBR04 ]
WOAKES04Persons, selecting a tune for a figure, should be careful in selecting such as have the same number of parts as the figure requires, and also acquaint the M. C. of the figure and tune, that he may give directions to the different sets, and to the Musicians. [ see CHIVERS2103, ANLOBR07 ]
WOAKES05The Master of the Ceremonies can object to any call that affords reasonable ground of complaint, such as length or difficulty of figure; but the couple whose call is rejected, have the liberty of calling another dance less objectionable and more suitable to the ability of the company. [ see WILSON1621 ]
WOAKES06The M. C. would find it more preferable to have their rules suspended in a conspicuous part of the room, in which should be particularly expressed what species of dancing is permitted to be performed and in what succession. [ see CHIVERS2116, ANLOBR05 ]
WOAKES07The most frequent arrangement of Dancing is to commence with two Country Dances, then a set of Quadrilles, afterwards a Spanish Dance or Swedish Dance occasionally being substituted for a Country Dance.
WOAKES08Any lady or Gentleman wishing to dance, and not being provided with a partner, should apply to the M. C.. [ see CHIVERS2105, ANLOBR14 ]
WOAKES09No person should leave the set till the dance is finished. [ see CHIVERS2108, ANLOBR13 ]
WOAKES10When the M. C. calls the number, those that retain them should answer. [ see CHIVERS2106 ]
WOAKES11Any lady, if disengaged, refusing to dance with a gentleman, will be under the penalty of not joining the next dance (and, according to some rules, the whole of the evening) unless indisposition is the cause. [ see CHIVERS2107 ]
WOAKES12Ladies, not availing themselves of the privilege of naming the dance, will take their place at the bottom, the set next in order then having the nomination. [ see CHIVERS212, ANLOBR08 ]
WOAKES13No lady can pass from one set to another, nor can a transfer of numbers take place, without permission of the M. C.. [ see CHIVERS2113, ANLOBR11 ]
WOAKES14No dance should be called twice the same evening, unless by particular desire of the company. [ see CHIVERS2119, ANLOBR12 ]
WOAKES15No lady or gentleman during any dance to change the figure. [ see CHIVERS2117, ANLOBR15 ]
WOAKES16If the company are so numerous as to require a division of three or four sets, they are distinguished thus: A set, B set, C set, D set.——The rotation of the calls are generally thus: No. l. A set, calls first — No. l. B set, calls second — No. l. C set, calls third — No. l. D set, calls fourth. Then No. 2. set A calls, and so on in rotation from one set to the other. [ see CHIVERS2129, ANLOBR06 ]
WOAKES17It is usual after the leading couple have performed the figures down three couples, for those at the top to begin, and generally it is sufficient, but, if the dance should be composed of more than three figures, to prevent confusion and to give the necessary distinctness to each performance, a wider separation is recommended. [ see CHIVERS2132, ANLOBR09 ]
WOAKES18The dance is finished when the first couple have gone down a second time. [ see CHIVERS2132, ANLOBR10 ]
WOAKES19Two ladies cannot dance together if there be gentlemen without partners - the same rule is to be observed by the gentlemen — the ladies dancing together may take a call but the gentlemen can not, therefore must go to the bottom. [ see CHIVERS2120, ANLOBR16 ]
WOAKES20In all disputes, the persons concerned should leave the room with the M. C. (whose authority is unquestionable, and decisions final,) and not return till both parties are reconciled. [ see CHIVERS2115, ANLOBR18 ]
WOAKES21Persons, not attending when their number is called, must stand at the bottom during that dance, the same to be observed if they stand up after the dance has began, nor should any person permit another to stand above them after the set is formed. [ see CHIVERS2122 ]
WOAKES22Persons, joining the dance after the first couple have been down it, may stand before the said couple that called the dance. [ see CHIVERS2122 ]
WOAKES23It is highly improper for a person to call a dance, and leave the room immediately after it is finished, or even sit down when they get to the bottom of the dance. [ see CHIVERS2123 ]
WOAKES24The customary mode of changing partners is between every two dances; if a Quadrille or any other dance be introduced, partners are also changed. [ see CHIVERS2125, ANLOBR17 ]
WOAKES25Persons performing the figure twice with the same couple, must drop one couple, or should they stop, must also drop a couple. [ see CHIVERS2127 ]
WOAKES26Any couple calling a dance, and not able to perform it, are at liberty to call another; but, if the same difficulty occurs, they must let the next couple call. [ see CHIVERS2128 ]
WOAKES27All persons, on entering an Assembly Room, should observe whether their rules vary, which will require the same attention as those given, for there are few rooms, but what have some bye laws. [ see CHIVERS2135 ]
WOAKES28Those ladies and gentlemen, who are continually in conversation with each other, had better retire from the set, which will prevent others being annoyed, and their ill manners observed. [ see CHIVERS2114 ]
WOAKES29No person is permitted to dance in boots or gaiters, nor should any one attempt to enter so equipped; an opera dress alone is proper for a Ball Room. [ see CHIVERS2110 ]
WOAKES30Naval and Military Officers must be admitted as exceptions, and a Cavalry Officer in boots and spurs cannot be objected to. [ see CHIVERS2137 ]
Figure 12. Mr Blake's Annual Ball, Willis's Rooms (Almack's), 1800.

© Trustees of the British Museum

The bulk of these rules are copied either verbatim, or with minor changes, from elsewhere. Rule WOAKES11 is interesting as it goes further than any previous rule, it suggests that any disengaged Lady who refuses to dance with a Gentleman, may be barred from any further dancing that evening. Rules WOAKES17 and WOAKES18 are also interesting as they pertain to the Wilsonian style of Country Dancing; it's a rare example of Woakes not copying Chivers, and instead using the more inclusive text from Analysis of the London Ball Room.

Woakes only added a single new rule of his own, WOAKES07, which refers to the arrangement of dances. It's especially interesting for mentioning Swedish Dances, a variant of the Country Dance invented by Chivers. Woakes was an example of a provincial dancing master who promoted Chivers' dances, despite their relative obscurity at the time.




Lowes' Ball Conductor and Assembly Guide, 3rd Ed, 1831

The Lowe brothers published the first edition of their Ball Conductor in Glasgow in 1822. It was subsequently extended and republished in Edinburgh for the 1831 3rd edition. We've investigated the Lowe brothers, and their publications, in a previous research paper. The third edition of their book contains another detailed list of etiquette rules, closely derived from those of G.M.S. Chivers, particularly the 1821 Dancers' Guide. It's unclear whether these rules survived unchanged from 1822, or whether they were reworked for the 3rd edition. What is clear is that they contain some new material that appears unrelated to the previous publications.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Ball Conductor and Assembly Guide, 3rd Ed, 1831 (page 153)
LOWES3101Any description of the dress requisite for a ball would be useless, as it is generally known. The uniform of naval and military officers is considered full dress; and cavalry officers, in boots and spurs, cannot be objected to. [ see CHIVERS2137 ]
LOWES3102A card of the rules to be observed at every suit of assembly rooms should be hung in some conspicuous place, that strangers may have it in their power to notice such incidental by-laws as it may be proper for them to know; and all persons, on entering public assembly-rooms, should observe whether or not such rules vary from those observed at other places. [ see CHIVERS2116, CHIVERS2135 ]
LOWES3103The patron and patroness, as well as the director or master of ceremonies, should have external marks of distinction, if not generally known; and, in all cases of dispute, the opinion of the patron ought to be decisive. [ see CHIVERS2118 , CHIVERS2115 ]
LOWES3104The director or master of the ceremonies should be well acquainted with such Quadrilles and Country Dances as are fashionable, that he may be able to call the various figures of the former, and instruct strangers with regard to the latter. He ought also to know what music will best suit the dances to be performed, that he may be able to give directions to the leader of the band, who should attend to no one else, as some may wish to have the airs played quite fast, while others would prefer a more moderate manner of performing them.
LOWES3105The patron and patroness of every assembly, as well as the director or master of the ceremonies, should be at the rooms in proper time to receive the company; and all strangers ought to be introduced to them, as they are in some degree responsible for the respectability of the persons assembled.*

* The subscribers to Almack's assemblies in London, and those who are privileged to attend the Rooms at Bath, are very particular with regard to this; and no person can become a subscriber to either of these places of fashionable resort, unless he is acquainted with a certain number of those who are already subscribers, and not objected to by a certain number of them.

LOWES3106Various methods of distributing the numerical tickets for the couples composing the different dances are practiced. Some directors give them to the Ladies or Gentlemen as they enter; to the first, No. 1, and so on. Others wait till as many have assembled as may be thought sufficient to constitute the first set, when a lottery is made of the tickets, which are drawn either by the Ladies or the Gentlemen present. We would conceive this to be the best plan, as it prevents all haste for the purpose of priority of place; and we would also recommend the drawing of tickets by the Gentlemen, as, if any altercation takes place, it would be unpleasant for a Lady to argue about her situation in the dance, and many would much rather lose it. The Gentlemen having the tickets can make no difference with regard to the Ladies having the privilege of choosing the dances, as it is every Gentleman's duty in this case to consult his partner, and to call whatever dance will be most agreeable to her. Ladies of quality are generally entitled to the highest places in the dance; and if several Ladies of the same distinction are present, they take their places by seniority. [ see CHIVERS2101 ]
LOWES3107The Ladies or Gentlemen who draw the numbers should retain them, that they may be able to convince others who may dispute their right to the situation they claim; and should any persons lose their number, they must apply for another, as otherwise they cannot claim a place in the dance above any of those in possession of numbers. [ see CHIVERS2109 , CHIVERS2102 ]
LOWES3108When the master of the ceremonies calls the numbers, those who retain them should either take their places, or offer an apology; as it is considered highly improper for any couple not to stand up when the dance is called; and their objecting to do so is generally looked upon as an evidence of disrespect towards the others. Persons not attending when their numbers are called, must stand at the bottom; and none should permit others to stand above them after the dance is formed. [ see CHIVERS2106 , CHIVERS2122 , CHIVERS2111 , CHIVERS2126 ]
LOWES3109The different sets are generally distinguished, as first set, second, third, &c; or by the letters of the alphabet, as set A, set B, &c. A set should not consist of more than twelve couples; and if a couple leave the dance for a little refreshment, the Lady and Gentleman, on coming to the bottom, ought to show their respect for the others by joining it again as soon as possible. It is customary in England for the first couple to dance down a few couples again in compliment to the last; and it is very improper for those who have regained the top, or others, to leave their places before the dance is finished, as no greater mark of disrespect can be shown towards the last couple. [ see CHIVERS2129 , CHIVERS2132 , CHIVERS2108 , CHIVERS2123 ]
LOWES3110Every Gentleman ought to offer his hand, or the aid of his arm, to his partner, both in leading to the dance, and from it; and no Gentleman should allow a Lady, with whom he has the honour of dancing, to find a seat for herself.
LOWES3111No Gentleman has a right to expect a Lady to dance with him, unless he has been previously introduced to her; and no Lady ought to decline dancing with one Gentleman, and immediately stand up with another, unless she wishes to show insolence and ill manners. If a Lady has been dancing, and feels fatigued, she should, on being asked to dance again, either say that it will give her much pleasure to dance after resting a little, or that she does not mean to dance again during the evening. [ see CHIVERS2107 ]
LOWES3112If two or three sets are to be danced at the same time, each of the commencing couples should name a dance to a neutral person, who should mention them collectively to the master of the ceremonies, and his choice should be accepted of.
LOWES3113No Lady or Gentleman has a right to change the figures selected by the first couple, which ought to pass down to the bottom, or perform the figures with at least twelve couples, that they may know what dance has been chosen, and that the first Lady or Gentleman may have an opportunity of evincing an equal degree of respect for every couple, constituting what may be called their dance. This rule is often disregarded, to the great mortification of those at the bottom, who are most certainly slighted by such an aggression. [ see CHIVERS2117 ]
LOWES3114In choosing the music for a dance, persons ought to be careful in selecting tunes having such a number of parts as the figures of the dance may require; and should any be at a loss to know what will best suit the figures they wish to perform, it is proper for them to consult the master of the ceremonies, or, in his absence, the leader of the band. [ see CHIVERS2103 ]
LOWES3115During the performance of Country Dances, persons should avoid conversing, as it only tends to create confusion, and adds nothing to the character of Ladies and Gentlemen so doing. [ see CHIVERS2114 ]
LOWES3116No Gentleman should allow another to interrupt him or his partner in going down the dance; and if this should happen by accident, an apology on the part of the aggressor is quite requisite.
LOWES3117Every Lady and Gentleman ought to be ready to give their hands when they are required, as any neglect of this is generally supposed to convey disrespect towards the others, and shows an absence of obliging politeness.
LOWES3118An easy management of the arms and hands is of the greatest consequence in dancing, as any appearence of decrepitude destroys the grace of the whole figure. When about to join hands, the shoulders should remain perfectly easy; the elbows should rise first, and the arms should be held in the form of bows, without corners at the elbows, and sloping from the shoulders; the hands should not be opened too wide, nor should the fingers be too much apart; and a gentle hold should be taken, as any rudeness in this respect gives evidence of bad manners. In withdrawing the hands, the arms should bend in the same easy manner, and care should be taken not to drop the elbows first.
LOWES3119It is impossible to present the hand gracefully without looking at the person to whom it is offered; and in all figures where the hands have to be changed, it has a bad effect to change suddenly. It is also extremely rude to hold the arms high, or spread them out to an enormous extent in going down the middle, &c.
LOWES3120There is more of a Gentleman's breeding observed in conducting his partner down a dance, and in the polite attention he confers on others, than some seem to be aware of; and it would be well if some Gentlemen would give a little more attention to their partner's mode of stepping, and not drag them along as if by force, whist they themselves are capering, rattling, or shuffling their feet in the rudest manner. Such barbarism must be disgusting to every person accustomed to more cultivated conduct, and cannot be expected to please any but such as are equally rude with those who are guilty of it.
LOWES3121In dancing Country Dances, the steps should be performed in a light and easy manner, without the appearence of study, as the whole grace of the movements immediately vanishes when they are perceived to have been acquired; and none can be said to dance well, who are not capable of moving according to the dictates of their own fancy. Persons should particularly avoid looking at their own feet, and every other appearence of self-admiration, which generally excites contempt, and is only fit for those who assume false, affected airs, and are always eager to display them.
LOWES3122In dancing Quadrilles, a more smooth, sliding, or gliding style is requisite; and in all dances, polite attention to partners, and to the others engaged, is quite indispensable.
LOWES3123In England it is common to dance two Country Dances with the same partner; and Quadrilles and Waltzing are generally introduced when the exchange of partners takes place. In Scotland, Country Dances and Quadrilles are danced alternately, and Reels are introduced when agreeable to the company. [ see CHIVERS2125 ]
LOWES3124Every Gentleman should be provided with a pair of clean gloves, as the want of them bespeaks of vulgarity, as well as ignorance of proper etiquette; and no Gentleman ought to presume to ask a Lady to dance with him without them; nor should any one attempt to enter an assembly-room equipped in boots or gaiters. [ see CHIVERS2110 ]
LOWES3125It is improper for two Ladies to dance together, if there are Gentlemen in the room; and the same rule ought to be observed by the Gentlemen. No couple should leave the set to which it belongs, for the purpose of joining another, without permission of the master of the ceremonies. [ see CHIVERS2120 , CHIVERS2113 ]
LOWES3126The couple that called or commenced the dance, should stand at the bottom for the next dance, each couple observing the same rule. [ see CHIVERS2134 ]
LOWES3127Any couple calling a dance, and not able to perform it, are at liberty to call another; but if the same difficulty recur, they must let the next couple call. [ see CHIVERS2128 ]
LOWES3128After the first couple have passed down two couples, it is proper for the second to begin; and every figure should so terminate, as to cause the couples going down to pass one each time, and the others move progressively up, one couple at a time. [ see CHIVERS2132 , CHIVERS2131 ]
LOWES3129In Quadrille dancing, it is of the utmost consequence to know which is the first couple, which the second, which the third, and which the fourth; and no Lady and Gentleman ought to take the situation of the first couple, unless well acquainted with the figures to be performed.
LOWES3130The directions and advice of the master of the ceremonies should be particularly attended to, and all disputes with regard to the dancing and music should be referred to him. [ see CHIVERS2136 ]
Figure 13. Ticket for an Assembly at London's Crown & Anchor Tavern, 1800s.

© Trustees of the British Museum

These regulations are closely related to their Chiverian predecessors, though they've been rearranged and combined into a more logical structure. Many of the new rules pertain to graceful movement and behaviour, LOWES3117 through LOWES3121 all address that topic. Several of the new rules address Quadrille dancing; LOWES3104 requires the director to be familiar with the figures, LOWES3122 described their fluidity, and LOWES3129 requires the dancers to understand the format of the dance. Two of the rules emphasise a difference between the prevailing conventions in Scotland and England; LOWES3123 discusses the dancing program for an evening, and LOWES3109 covers how a Country Dance should end in England.

Several Chiverian rules are not present in the Lowes' list. They dropped the CHIVERS2104 rule requiring an extra strain of music at the start of a dance in order for partners to honour each other. They also dropped CHIVERS2105 which required anyone without a partner to apply to the Master of the Ceremonies for assistance. They dropped the CHIVERS2112 rule which forbade clapping of hands and the use of unsuitable steps (though that second issue was perhaps better addressed in their rules on graceful dancing), and CHIVERS2119 which forbade the same dance being called twice in the same evening. They dropped the CHIVERS2121 rule that limited how far down the middle of a Country Dance the dances should lead down, and CHIVERS2127 which addressed mistakes in performing the figures.




And Others...

It's probable that other guides were published towards the start of the 19th century. It would certainly be interesting to study the first edition of the Lowes' Ball-Conductor and Assembly Guide from 1822, and G.M.S. Chivers's 1825 Dancing Master in Miniature. Further publications may yet emerge that provide further insight into the patterns of influence between our various sources.

What should have become clear is that while many conventions were standardised across Britain and throughout the Regency period, variations can be seen between the various guides. A dancer two hundred years ago might need to familiarise themselves with the conventions of each Public Ball they frequented, as each Master of Ceremonies was liable to require slightly different behaviour from their dancers.

If you're lucky enough to have access to any further Ball-Room etiquette lists, do please contact us as we'd love to know more.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © RegencyDances.org 2010-2017
All Rights Reserved