‘The whole world in miniature’, or ‘a bad return’? by Louise A. Lamb
By the mid-1700s, the public masquerade ball had achieved extraordinary popularity and notoriety across London, drawing thousands to the city’s pleasure gardens. The phenomenon met its natural match in two successive earthquakes, believed by some to represent a divine judgement against an increasingly pleasure-seeking society. This article compares two responses to the 1749 Jubilee masquerade balls at Ranelagh Gardens, a venue renowned for its exoticism and glamour. Louis-Philippe Boitard’s engraving wryly presents masquerade as a celebration of English eccentricity and eclecticism, while an anonymous pamphlet attacks it as a dangerous foreign import which had damaged British masculinity and morality. Through considering their language and images, the article explores how and why the Jubilee balls became such a potent social barometer of their time.