Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Miss Monckton Entertains

The Honourable Miss Monckton was the daughter of Lord and Lady Galway and a famous society hostess. She had a trademark of receiving guests while sitting down.  Fanny Burney found that a bit alarming but went on to describe her as "between thirty and forty, very short, very fat, but handsome, splendidly and fantastically dressed, rouged not unbecomingly, yet evidently and palpably desirous of gaining notice and admiration."

Mrs and Miss Thrale
Once when Fanny and her friend Mrs Thrale were invited to a Monckton party they made the careless mistake of showing up on time.  Never show up on time to a ton event!  The events that follow sound like they could have been a retelling of a Lauren and Heather situation! How many times has this awkward situation happened to you?

I had begged Mrs. Thrale to call for me, that I might have her countenance and assistance upon my entrance. Miss Thrale came also. Every thing was in a new style. We got out of the coach into a hall full of servants, not one of which inquired our names, or took any notice of us. We proceeded, and went upstairs, and, when we arrived at a door, stopped and looked behind us. No servant had followed or preceded us. We deliberated what was to be done. To announce ourselves was rather awkward, neither could we be sure we were going into the right apartment. I proposed going up higher, till we met with somebody; Miss Thrale thought we should go down and call some of the servants; but Mrs. Thrale, after a ridiculous consultation, determined to try her fortune by opening the door. This being done, we entered a room full of tea-things, and one maid-servant.
Fanny Burney
"Well," cried Mrs. Thrale, laughing, "what is to be done now? I suppose we are come so early that nothing is ready."
The maid stared, but said,—"There's company in the next room."
Then we considered again how to make ourselves known; and then Mrs. Thrale again resolved to take courage and enter. She therefore opened another door, and went into another apartment. I held back, but looked after, and observing that she made no curtsey, concluded she was gone into some wrong place. Miss Thrale followed, and after her went little I, wondering who was to receive, or what was to become of us.
Miss Monckton lives with her mother, the old Dowager Lady Galway, in a noble house in Charles-street, Berkeleysquare, The room was large and magnificent. There was not much company, for we were very early. Lady Galway sat at the side of the fire, and received nobody. She seems very old, and was dressed with a little round white cap, and not a single hair, no cushlori, roll, nor any thing else but the little round cap, which was flat upon her forehead. Such part of the company as already knew her made their compliments to her where she sat, and the rest were never taken up to her, but belonged wholly to Miss Monckton.
Miss Monckton's own manner of receiving her guests was scarce more laborious ; for she kept her seat when they entered, and only turned round her head to nod it, and say "How do you do?" after which they found what accommodation they could for themselves.


  1. Very interesting! And I want all her dresses!

  2. Well, that teaches them! We came a little early for dinner in a city 3 hours away, and our hosts were still vacuuming. Hah! Loved this glimpse into yester year.

  3. @Alyssia They were all quite fashionable, weren't they!

    @Vic, Isn't it great knowing some of our favs from history share our awkward moments?

  4. PS I would not want to be sitting so for my portrait....

  5. Lol. I guess that there was a good reason that it was fashionable to be late. Very funny story.
    And the portraits are so pretty. Those women were so fashionable.

  6. It's especially bad to show up early or on time in today's world, when so many of us have no servants to make things easier. I know I like to gild the lily when I entertain, but I also am running right on up to arrival time with 'fussing'.

  7. Ah yes "fussing" or in my case, running around frantically fixing last minute details or panicking about what I may have forgotten.