Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Fancy Ball at Mrs. Senator Gwin's

FASHION AT WASHINGTON.; The Fancy Ball at Mrs. Sen... - View Article - The New York Times

I am reading with great enjoyment the memoir by Virginia Clay-Clopton, A Belle of the Fifties. She was the wife of Senator Clement Clay of Alabama, who served as senator
from 1853 to January 1861 when Alabama seceded from the Union. Her descriptions of Washington society in those pre-war years is wonderful, well worth reading for anyone who is interested in the social history of Washington.

On April 12, 1858, Mrs. Senator Gwin, wife of Senator William Gwin of California, gave a "fancy ball" which was the talk of "Washington City" for weeks leading up to it and then for decades afterwards. I have read of this ball in other Washington memoirs of the time, but Mrs. Clay's description is the best I've read. (A Belle of the Fifties is available at Google Books as a free download in either epub or pdf versions.)

At the top of this post is a link leading to a New York Times article regarding Mrs. Gwin's ball.

I am at the point in Mrs. Clay's memoir where she and her husband are about to remove to Richmond, Virginia. I am looking forward to reading her accounts of Richmond during the war and to getting to know the personalities of war-time Richmond society through her eyes.

For those who have read my transcription of Betty Herndon Maury's Civil War diary at my blog called The House on Caroline Street, you will be interested to hear that Mrs. Clay mentions Betty's father, Matthew Fontaine Maury, her husband Will and Will's sisters. Mrs. Clay described the Maury girls as elegant.

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