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Lewis Vaslet, 1742–1808, The Spoiled Child, Scene II, ca. 1802, Watercolor with black ink and gray wash over graphite on moderately thick, slightly textured, cream wove paper, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. B1977.14.4342

Lewis Vaslet, 1742–1808, The Spoiled Child, Scene II, ca. 1802, Watercolor with black ink and gray wash over graphite on moderately thick, slightly textured, cream wove paper, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. B1977.14.4342

In just about a week, we’re running a pilot program in the historic house where I work (tickets available here). After Dark, or What Cheer Night, are programs we’ve wanted to do for a couple of years, but all good things take time.

I’ve drawn the lot chosen to talk about getting ready for bed and sleeping: lighting devices, bedding, washing, chamber pots* and what people wore to bed. While already in possession of candles and candlesticks, and the proud new owner of exhibition and interpretation grant-funded LED candles, there are things I needed to make. Of course.

Print made by Guillaume Philippe Benoist, 1725–ca. 1770, French, Pamela Swooning, after having discovered Mr. B. in the closet, He (frighted) endeavouring to recover her, Mrs. Jervis wringing her hands, and screaming, 1745, Etching with stipple engraving on medium, slightly textured, cream laid paper, Yale Center for British Art, Yale Art Gallery Collection, Gift of the Library Associates.

Print made by Guillaume Philippe Benoist, 1725–ca. 1770, French, Pamela Swooning, after having discovered Mr. B. in the closet, He (frighted) endeavouring to recover her, Mrs. Jervis wringing her hands, and screaming, 1745, Etching with stipple engraving on medium, slightly textured, cream laid paper, Yale Center for British Art, Yale Art Gallery Collection, Gift of the Library Associates.

A banyan, for one thing. And you know that will (one hopes) be followed in short order by a night cap. After all, you can’t talk about Pamela if you haven’t got a banyan and a cap in the house. That’s a simple and relatively fun project to tackle when brain capacity is somewhat limited: some piecing, straight seams, setting in facings and sleeve linings can all happen before I must assault the collar.

Collars are devilishly tricky for me sometimes– oddly, a pad-stitched collar set onto a tailored jacket seems easier to me than a bedgown collar– but I suspect the eventual recipient will manage to enjoy the garment no matter what minor construction errors a tipsy milliner or half-seas over housemaid might make (not, of course, that I am either of those things).

It’s been a fascinating exercise in having a staff-and-docent study group that has taken a decidedly feminist bent (calling Our Girl History!) as we explore what happened in Providence After Dark. Brothel riots in 1782. Warnings by the Baptist Church not to visit the “theatre, circus, or Green Cottage” on pain of punishment. No, I do not yet know what or where the Green Cottage is, but the best researchers I know are working on it. Is this the 18th century answer to the Green Door? We can but hope.

Reading The Coquette? Thomson’s The Seasons? Come experience an 18th century house on a night when people will know what you’re talking about! Or you can watch  that questionable housekeeper prepare a room for the night while she talks about sleep patterns and shares tips for 18th century pest control.

 

 

*Pro tip: put it on a chair. I fully expect to run an intimate workshop some evening called “Will Humiliate Self for History, or, Everything you ever wanted to know about the 18th century, but were too well brought up to ask.”