1. Introduction (2 of 2)

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That leaves us with advertisements for classes and scholars’ balls. These vary from a brief name, date, place and price to an entire syllabus delivered with ‘puffing’ – known to us as ‘spin’ – promising select accommodation and the Most Fashionable Dances taught in an Expeditious Manner.

Some advertisements carry a subtext. In 1730 Mr Cailliault of Norwich made elaborate protestations of being maligned because of his low fees. He was maligned because he undercut the competition – who shortly saw him off. In 1794 Edward Christian and his near-neighbour John Browne both hotly denied that they intended to retire: they were nearing the end of their careers but also facing competition from Francis Noverre. With even worse judgement, Mr Lalliet, in 1798 “refutes the calumny that he has absconded from Yarmouth’ where he, too, was facing hot competition, partly from the ubiquitous Mr Noverre. Even more colourful are the masters whose origin was the theatre, or who made use of an appearance on the stage for self-advertisement.

We don’t know how their pupils reacted to such advertisements. There is nothing to identify their pupils except for what can be deduced from the advertisements. ‘Young Ladies and Gentlemen’ means children and young people up to marriageable age, taught for the most part in classes, occasionally in private. Adults were more usually taught privately, either in their own homes or at the master’s room.

As to who the pupils were: anyone who could afford a fee to further their social aspirations, particularly in the marriage market, or those already of the Polite World who wished to learn the latest dance and figure well at an assembly ball.

There being no ideal way of arranging an uneven amount of information and masters who do not keep station, I shall adopt the least-worst solution and proceed by way of small country practices to those of Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and Norwich. By way of an afterpiece there are the masters from the theatre. Finally, after considering the masters’ conduct, practice – and malpractice — terms and conditions, I shall try to assess their place in society.

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