The Masquerade at Vauxhall Garden

The masquerade needs to experience a revival as a form of popular entertainment. I can’t think of anything more fun than dressing up in costume for a party. Why do we have to wait for Halloween to enjoy the experience?

In the eighteenth century, they knew how to do it. Masquerades were a favorite form of party for everyone. If you want to experience first-hand what a masquerade was like, I recommend you check out the website The Upside-down World: Eighteenth Century Masquerades. There you’ll get a ticket to a masquerade, find out where to buy a costume, and meet some of your fellow-partiers, learning all kinds of interesting tidbits along the way.

This website is part of a student project at the University of Michigan. The information is presented in such a way that learning is a pleasure. Because research is not limited to books anymore, it can be so much fun that you almost forget about the book you’re writing.

In my novel The Serpentine Path, Susan is faced with the problem of finding the love of her life in London. It wasn’t possible for an upper class woman to go about the city unescorted, so I chose the device of the masquerade to get her in the costume of a man. (See the chapter on Gender and Sexuality in The Upside-down World.) I am not alone; many writers from Shakespeare to modern times have used masquerades as a plot device.

And of course, this being a novel about gardens, I must mention the location of my masquerade. Vauxhall Garden was another popular 18th century pastime in London. Located just south of the Thames, it was a large pleasure park where the rich would stroll, enjoying the live music of Handel and taking tea in the pavilions. I don’t know where John Dean worked when he lived in London, but I couldn’t imagine a better place than Vauxhall Garden.

It almost makes you long for the good old days, doesn’t it?

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