Heinrich Joseph Schütz after Thomas Rowlandson, ‘No. 2 Soldiers Recreating’ (1798) © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1959. The image shows a woman dancing outside near water, accompanied and watched by soldiers.

References to British Dance Instrumentation 1790s


Jug of earthenware transfer-printed in black enamel showing a celebration of Harvest Home, probably printed in Liverpool, probably made in Staffordshire, c.1790, Victoria and Albert Museum, London http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O229144/jug-unknown/

Thomas Rowlandson, Plate 14 from Outlines of Figures, Landscapes and Cattle…for the Use of Learners (London: S.W. Fores, 1 June 1790), Metropolitan Museum of Art https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/738602 For a possible derivative image see https://emuseum.huntington.org/objects/898/country-dance 

Thomas Rowlandson, [A Children’s Ball] (London: T. Rowlandson, 26 June 1790), Royal Collection Trust https://www.rct.uk/collection/810386/a-childrens-ball

‘Morven Hall in the days of Other Times’ ([Ireland?]: [1790?]), The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University https://hdl.handle.net/10079/digcoll/951138

Thomas Rowlandson, Outlines of figures, & landscapes [Pl. 9] (London: S.W. Fores, 20 January 1791), British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1867-1214-439

Thomas Rowlandson, ‘The Prospect Before Us Humanely inscrib’d to all those Professors of Music, and Dancing, whom the cap may fit’ (London: S.W. Fores, 13 January 1791), Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University https://hdl.handle.net/10079/digcoll/3996183

‘Hold up your Head Miss Tol lol de rol’ (London: S.W. Fores, 1 April 1791), The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University https://hdl.handle.net/10079/digcoll/550983

‘The Flowing Can’ (London: Robert Sayer, 21 April 1791), The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University https://hdl.handle.net/10079/digcoll/552485

William Dent, ‘Revolution Anniversary or, Patriotic Incantations’ ([London]: W. Dent, 12 July 1791), British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1868-0808-6083

Isaac Cruikshank, ‘Rehearsing a Cotilion’ (London: S.W. Fores, 2 April 1792), The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University https://hdl.handle.net/10079/digcoll/553675

Richard Newton, ‘Prelude to the Riot in Mount Street’ (London: William Holland, 6 June 1792), British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1868-0808-10340

Samuel Alken after Thomas Rowlandson, ‘A French Family’ (London: S.W. Fores, 5 November 1792), British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1938-0613-6 Note that the companion piece ‘An Italian Family’ dates from 1785.

William Dent, ‘A Scotch Reel, or, Sawny's Joyfull Turn Into Office’ (London: James Aitken, 30 January 1793), British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1948-0214-453

‘The Merry Cottagers’ (London: Robert Sayer, c.1793), The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University https://hdl.handle.net/10079/digcoll/550208

‘The Dancing Masters Ball’ (London: R. Laurie & J. Whittle, 27 August 1794), British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1948-0214-418

Francesco Bartolozzi (attr.), ticket to a ball at Hickford’s rooms, 8 January 1795, British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1877-0512-243

David Allan, The Penny Wedding, c.1795, National Galleries of Scotland https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/8324/

‘A Scotch Reel’ (London: Laurie & Whittle, 26 August 1795), British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1948-0214-424

Thomas Rowlandson, ‘A Master of the Ceremonies Introducing a Partner’ (London: S.W. Fores, 24 November 1795), British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1876-1014-29. For an alternative image see https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1873-0712-834

James Gillray (?) after David Hess, ‘Dansons la Carmagnole! Vive le son! Vive le son!’, 1796, British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1851-0901-1311

Thomas Rowlandson, Comforts of Bath: Private Practice Previous to the Ball, 1798, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:5582

Thomas Rowlandson, Comforts of Bath: The Ball, 1798, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:5583

Thomas Rowlandson, ‘Comforts of Bath’, Plate 10 (London: S.W. Fores, 6 January 1798), Metropolitan Museum of Art https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/810875 Note this is an alternative version to ‘Comforts of Bath: The Ball’ listed above, with differences in the composition of the orchestra.

Heinrich Joseph Schütz after Thomas Rowlandson, ‘No. 2 Soldiers Recreating’ (London: Rudolph Ackermann, 1 April 1798), Metropolitan Museum of Art https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/739311

James Neagle after Richard Corbould, title-page to Goldsmith's Poems Forming Part of Cooke’s Pocket Edition of the Original & Complete Works of Selected British Poets (C. Cooke, 1 May 1798), British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1875-0710-3329

‘John Bull learning a New Movement against the next Campaign’ (London: S.W. Fores, 21 March 1799), British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1868-0808-6833

William Henry Pyne, A Village Fete, c.1790-1800, Victoria and Albert Museum, London http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1067422/a-village-fete-watercolour-pyne-william-henry/

Joseph Mallord William Turner, A Seated Harpist and Dancing Woman, c.1799-1800, Tate https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-a-seated-harpist-and-dancing-woman-d04100

Joseph Mallord William Turner, A Group of Figures, with Some Reclining, and Others Dancing to a Harpist, c.1799-1800, Tate https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-a-group-of-figures-with-some-reclining-and-others-dancing-to-a-harpist-d04101

Joseph Mallord William Turner, A Group of Figures Dancing and Listening to a Harpist, c.1799-1802, Tate https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-a-group-of-figures-dancing-and-listening-to-a-harpist-d04012


Documentary Sources

Trevor Fawcett, “Dance and Teachers of Dance in Eighteenth-Century Bath”, Bath History Journal 2 (1988)
“The only important non-Continental innovations arrived from the Celtic fringe in the 1790s with a grateful infusion of Highland reels and strathspeys with Irish jigs. These were first signalled in the dancing masters’ classes and then by the addition of ‘an Harp and a Pipe and Tabor’ to the Upper Assembly Rooms orchestra on ball nights.” [p. 32]


Diaries of Sophia Trower (née Baker), 1793-1857, Add Mss 7462-7514, West Sussex Record Office

15 March 1794, Add Mss 7463

“A good deal of company dined here & in the evening Lucy came here. Mr Jenkins & his son dressed in the highland Dress came & danced here a harp in the evening after dinner.”

6 January 1796, Add Mss 7464

“12th Cake I Queen only Miss Mackeys & Miss Birons a dance to the organ”

16 January 1797, Add Mss 7465

“all Clitherows came to tea play’d on ye: Piano danc’d to the Organ”

26 April 1797, Add Mss 7465

“played at Commerce afterwards danced – dear Miss Strachey playing”

8 January 1798, Add Mss 7466

“We had 12th  Cake & the Strachy’s & Wightwickes [?] came…we danced to ye organ till ½ past 12”

12 September 1798, Add Mss 7466

“Miss Burton dined here with her Father & brother; more insupportable than ever she danced in the evening to the P.Forte with us at a great rate.”


Jane Fiske, ed., The Oakes Diaries: Business, Politics and the Family in Bury St Edmunds 1778-1827, vol. 1, Suffolk Records Society vol. 32 (Woodbridge and Rochester: The Boydell Press, 1990)

15 June 1795 [p. 313]

“Sister Baker & her son Richard to Dinner. Tea & Supper Company in the Eveng…After supper had a little Dance to the Harpsicord & singing. Company left us soon after one O’Clock.”

22 June 1795 [pp. 313-314]

“In the Evening had a Ball at the Guild Hall intended to have been on the 4th June.”

Followed by a list of expenses which included:

“Musick 15s 6d

collected for Musick of 10 Gent 10s 6d”


The True Briton 6 January 1796

“THE ANDROIDES…These much admired Pieces of Mechanism, which not only imitate Human Actions, but appear to possess Rational Powers, consist of, First, THE WRITING AUTOMATON…THE FRUITERY…The LIQUOR MERCHANT and WATER SERVER…THE HIGHLAND ORACLE, A Figure in the Highland Dress, stands on a Time-Piece, and gives the Hour and Minutes, whenever asked, by striking its Sword on a Targe; it gives a rational Answer (by Motion) to any Question proposed; it calculates Sums in Arithmetic, and gives the Amount instantly of any Number of Pounds, Yards, &c. at any given Price; beats time to Music, &c. The Table the different Pieces will be placed on, contains an ORGAN, on which the Proprietor introduces a few Notes; also, The MACHINE, or (Self-playing) ORGAN, will play occasionally several Pieces of Music, Airs, Country Dances, &c.” [Mr Haddock]


Deirdre Le Faye (ed.), Jane Austen’s Letters, 4th ed.  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)

Letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, 5 September 1796 [p. 8]

“We were at a Ball on Saturday I assure you. We dined at Goodnestone & in the Evening danced two Country Dances & the Boulangeries…Eliz:th played one Country dance, Lady Bridges the other…and Miss Finch played the Boulangeries”


Oracle and Public Advertiser 3 October 1796



“BEG leave to lay before the Public a DESCRIPTION of their IMPROVED MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS, viz…BARREL ORGANS, with a HARP and DRUM included, which have a very pleasing effect in country dances, and other airs; and, in itself, makes up a sufficient band for a dance in a private family, without the expence of Musicians, who are seldom to be engaged at a short notice.”


Morning Post and Fashionable World 4 July 1797

King’s Bench, July 3. A Hop. Bellis v. Platt

“Mr. GARROW stated this to be the first action of the kind, which, to his knowledge, had ever been brought into a Court of Justice, and as it was the first he rejoiced in being instrumental in beating down a nuisance more fatal to the morals of the community, than any other that could be subject to the coercion of a Jury. The Action was to recover the Penalty of One Hundred Pounds, given by Act of Parliament, 25th Geo. II. for keeping a place for the purpose of Music and Dancing, without a Licence…The thing complained of against the Defendant, who pretended to be a Dancing-Master, was, that he kept one of those assemblies which in the common acception were deemed Hops…It would be enough to prove that the Defendant acted as Master, and took money for admission into his Ball-room, which was usually resorted to by persons who had been in inferior situations in the navy or army, or who assumed to have been in such situations by wearing cockades: as to the Ladies they were, without a single exception, women of the town…Samuel Hogg said, he was by trade a stay-maker, but he had been twelve months in the employ of the Defendant as a fidler [sic], to play three times a week, at 3s. per night. There were two fiddles and a tambourine. He said he had seen modest women, and several of the Defendant’s private scholars at the dancing-room; but being interrogated, he could not recollect who they were. Mr. GARROW told him, if he fiddled there again, he would most likely dance into Bridewell.”


A.K. Hamilton Jenkin, Cornwall and its People (Newton Abbot, London and North Pomfret (Vt): David & Charles, 1988)

“A pleasant picture of one of the Cornish assemblies of the day is to be found in the diary of the Rev. J. Skinner. ‘On 7th November 1797,’ he writes, ‘we proceeded to the assembly at Bodmin. This is a monthly meeting for which the charge is a moderate subscription of 5s. for the season, though the entertainment to be sure does not discredit this vast expense. The room they dance in is perhaps twenty-five feet long, the boards laid the contrary way, and some of them much higher than others, which occasions various trippings as you go down the dance. It is lighted by five or six candles stuck against the wall, and the music usually consists of a blind fiddler and a littler scraper, his son. But we were particularly fortunate on the occasion of our visit in having the band of the Somerset Militia, who not only occupied half the room, but stunned us with the noise of their drums, clarionettes, etc. Indeed, I should have been much better pleased if Mr. Fiddler had reigned alone. The ladies, however, seemed perfectly charmed and contented, and I was accordingly glad to get away before tea, leaving them to the society of the Red Coats.'” [p. 151]


Mary Jemima Robinson, Baroness Grantham, to Amabel Hume-Campbell, 1st Countess de Grey, 12 January 1798, L30/11/240/72, Wrest Park (Lucas) Archive, Bedfordshire archives


“we have sat in the Gallery, because Mrs Eliot complained of the cold feel of the Drawing room, which is not a popular idea here: a little Piano forte musick, & a Reel, & two or three country dances, in which the Gentlemen were pressed into the service, have helped pass over the evenings; but the great promoter of Jollity, Mrs Eliot went back to Town this morning”


Richard Warner, A Second Walk Through Wales, by the Revd. Richard Warner, of Bath. In August and September 1798, 2nd ed. (Bath: Printed by R. Cruttwell, 1800)

Letter III [pp. 114-116]

Brecon 13 August

“No sooner was our supper dispatched, than Mrs. Jones gave us notice, that at a neighbouring public-house the cottagers had met, and were dancing to the sound of the village harp. The idea of a genuine Welsh Ball pleased us highly…I cannot express, therefore, the pleasure I felt on entering the room. It was not, indeed, very commodious, nor famously illuminated, being about fifteen feet square, and having only one solitary candle of sixteen to the pound. The party, however, which consisted of twenty-five or thirty, made up for every defect; animated by the tones of their favourite national instrument, and enlivened with the idea of the week’s labours being terminated…As the females were very handsome, it is most probable we should have accepted their offers, had there not been a powerful reason to prevent us – our complete inability to unravel the mazes of a Welsh dance. ‘Tis true there is no great variety in the figures of them, but the few they perform are so complicated and long, that they would render an apprenticeship to them necessary in an Englishman…Our surprise, however, was still more excited by the observance of a custom, which, as it is not practised at the Bath Balls, we were not prepared to expect. On a sudden the dance ceased, and the harper, running his finger rapidly down the chords of his instrument, gave the accustomed signal, on which every gentleman saluted his partner three or four times with considerable ardour.”

Letter XIV [p. 318]

Aberystwyth 5 September

“As the great lodging-house belongs to the Cors-y-Gidol inn, the company generally dine and sup there every day at a public table. Here also, once a week, they “foot it fealty” to the inspiring tones of the Welsh harp.”


1799. George Astor, Manufacturer of Musical Instruments, and Music-Seller [Catalogue]


“GEORGE ASTOR respectfully solicits the Attention of Merchants, Captains of Ships, and the Public in general, to his Barrel Organs with Drum and Triangle, which are particularly calculated for Country Dances, having the effect of a Band, and warranted to stand all Climates.  They are manufactured to a variety of Sizes; therefore, are well adapted for Cabins of Ships; which, from the Novelty of the Invention, will no doubt be a valuable Speculation to any Gentleman going abroad.”