Thermalisme et sociabilités féminines
Séance commune avec le GIS Sociabilités/Sociability du long dix-huitième siècle (1650-1850)
Lieu : Séance en ligne (lien sur demande aux organisateurs)
Table ronde avec Annick Cossic (HCTI, Université de Bretagne Occidentale), Elaine Chalus (University of Liverpool) et Rachael Johnson (Kingston University).
“Spa Sociability and the Reformation of the Nation: the Case of Hannah More in Georgian Bath (1792-1802)”
Annick Cossic (Université de Bretagne Occidentale)
Hannah More, a British woman of letters, who belonged to the second generation of Bluestockings, lived for about ten years in Bath where she shared a house with her sisters at 76, Great Pulteney Street, which thus became her winter residence. This paper will examine the tension that she experienced between spa sociability and its round of pleasures, on the one hand, and the moral, religious and political crusades that she embarked upon, on the other hand. Through the various letters that she wrote from Bath or its vicinity, it will assess the role of spa sociability in both encouraging political conservatism at the time of the French Revolution and favouring the emergence of an original model of social interaction, a philanthropic one. In spite of the founding utopia of social harmony at the heart of the Palladian redesigning of the ‘Queen of watering places,’ Bath was not exempt from conflicts and controversies. Hannah More’s reinvention of spa sociability along philanthropic lines – an undertaking encouraged by her illustrious friend, William Wilberforce – occurred in a context that exacerbated them.
“Our Friends at Bath: Sociability and Politics at the Spa”
Elaine Chalus (University of Liverpool)
At the beginning of April in 1767, a week before Parliament rose for the Easter recess, Lady Rockingham, who was in Bath for her health, received a political request from her husband in London. How many — he wanted to know — of ‘our Friends’ were in Bath? Could she find out through her socialising and let him know? And could she please impress upon those ‘Friends’ the importance of being in Parliament for the debate on the 14th? Rockingham and his supporters, then in Opposition, were hoping to defeat the government on the penultimate day of term and put a stop to the parliamentary inquiry into the affairs of the East India Company. As Rockingham explained to his wife: ‘Administration have always much advantage when the House is thin. Administration can easier keep their Followers in Town than we can keep the many Individuals who, if present would Vote with us.’ In 1767 the joint benefits of increased turnpiking and the introduction of the new Bath Flying Coach had shortened the trip to London to less than twenty-four hours, so politicians could readily enjoy the comforts of the spa and still return to Parliament quickly when required.
Lady Rockingham was an experienced political operator by the 1760s and this was by no means the first time that she had acted as ‘whip’ for her husband. Nor would it be the first, or the last, time that she turned her presence at the spa to political ends. Bath was popular with eighteenth-century politicians and its conveniently social ethos could be used to gather information, woo supporters, and build networks and alliances. This paper considers several of Lady Rockingham’s socio-political interventions between c.1760 and 1780 and suggests that the spa town was particularly well suited to the exercise of political sociability .
“Bell Causey at Tunbridge Wells: Master of Ceremonies, Matchmaker, or Pimp?”
Rachael Johnson (Kingston University)
In The Tunbridge Wells Guide of 1784, Bell Causey is described as ‘a fine but very large woman’ who ‘directed the company’ at this increasingly fashionable Kentish spa ‘in all their pleasures and amusements’. Acting as a de facto Master of Ceremonies, Causey managed the entertainments at Tunbridge Wells between 1725 and 1735, being secure enough in her position to hold off the famous Master of Ceremonies of Bath, Richard ‘Beau’ Nash, who coveted the position for himself. Whilst seemingly formidable – she apparently ‘hustle[d]’ the company ‘as they do chickens, to any place and for any purpose she wanted them for’ – guidebook writers defamed Causey, suggesting that she was the leader of a gang of prostitutes. In this paper, I will consider the portrayal of Causey in The Tunbridge Wells Guide of 1784, asking why its writers felt the need to offer such a slanderous account. Who was the real Bell Causey? What was her role at this fashionable spa? Why is she mentioned in only one of Tunbridge Wells’s Georgian history books? Was there an attempt to erase the spa’s first de facto Master of Ceremonies from history?