I have spent months looking forward to my Regency ball, which happened today. I've been carrying my Regency dress in my backpack all over Europe, decorating it as I've gone along. I have spent YEARS longing to go to a period ball in a period location in Europe. It has been a life long dream of mine. And today it actually happened.
The first order of business was the dance lesson in the afternoon. We learned six dances, including a waltz and Jane Austen's favorite dance. I picked them up pretty quickly and had a great time. Regency dancing is such fun! You get to gallop around and swing people in circles and there was live music for us to dance to. I sat down at a table with a few women at it who I ended up making friends with and dancing with in the afternoon. Emma and Ruth attended the ball last year, and there was also a foreign girl whose name I didn't get but for the sake of easiness let's call her Jane. Jane was my partner for the afternoon and we took turns being the man and the woman. It was all great fun. While I was learning the dances I was also scoping out the men, because what I wanted more than anything was to dance with a handsome gentleman in a perfect costume. Things didn't look promising. But I comforted myself by saying that there would be more people at the ball. Then about halfway through the dance lesson this group of four gentlemen in PERFECT costumes came in which immediately got my attention. I should probably point out that most people weren't in costume for the lesson so it was especially fun to see some Regency gentlemen walk in. I immediately determined that I would dance with one of them during the ball. In particular there was a very handsome gentleman who shall be hereafter referred to as Mr. Tilney. Now not only have I spent months looking forward to this ball, but I have also spent months daydreaming about meeting a handsome gentleman in a perfect costume and dancing with him and having a bit of romance. But never in a million years did I think it would actually happen. Little did I know...
So I went home after the lesson and got ready for the ball. About 15 minutes before I left I was sitting, giving my camera a bit of juice while I waited to leave, and my heart was literally pounding. I had butterflies in my stomach and my breath was coming quick. What if no one talked to me? What if no one danced with me? What if I was miserable? What if years and years of dreaming ended up in a horrible evening?
I walked down to The Guildhall where the ball was and met up with Emma, Ruth, and Jane. We all took some pictures and then the doors were opened and the ball began. The room we were in had GORGEOUS chandeliers from the 18th century, worth a million pounds each. I have seen my fair share of chandeliers on this trip, but these were the most beautiful. The room has neoclassical decorations, and was painted a pale green with some gold and white decorations. Simply BEAUTIFUL. The perfect place for a ball!!!! When we walked in there was a man with a large cane and a quizzing glass, and he would bang his cane on the floor and announce us. "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. MISS [MY LAST NAME] FROM THE COLONIES." I've never been announced before, it was awesome!
I was sitting at the Mr. Knightley table, which was fine. I got there at exactly 7 and the dancing didn't start until 7:30, so everyone had a half hour to mill about and get acquainted and watch as everyone came in. The people at my table were nice and all, but it was a lot of older couples and the conversation wasn't really great. I saw that Emma and Ruth were sitting across the room at the Edward Ferrars table so I walked over to chat. When I got there they said "You know those really well dressed men from before? They're all sitting at our table." I immediately determined to stay. This was my opportunity to see if I could get one to dance with me! Perhaps even Mr. Tilney! So I sat down and talked with Emma and Ruth, and everyone else started filtering in. I made friends with Ben, one of the well dressed gentlemen, and Michelle, his date. Ben and his group are all reenactors with a Napoleonic regiment, which explains the perfection of the costumes. We all quickly made friends, and I mentioned that I actually wasn't assigned to that particular table. There was one spare chair, which I was sitting in, but by that point we were all friends so Michelle, who is a lovely lovely human being, said that if whoever was assigned that spare chair showed up they would just squeeze in another chair so I could stay. I was so thrilled. Then I looked over to the Mr. Knightley table and saw a woman with a clipboard and the people from my table all pointing at me. I thought 'oh no, am I in trouble for switching tables?' The woman with the clipboard turned out to be the ball organizer, and she came over and said she was very sorry but would it be too much trouble if I switched tables as some one else wanted to sit in my seat. Best moment ever. I was more than happy to oblige and she gave me a big hug and said I saved the ball. So then I was officially settled at the Edward Ferrars table with my new friends!
For the first few dances I danced with Jane, who was sitting at another table, but what I really wanted was to dance with a gentleman. I mean really, being at a Regency ball in Bath, in a beautiful Regency ballroom, with live music, how could I not be despreate to dance with a Regency gentleman? Michelle and Ben got up to do a dance, and as I was getting up somehow or another, I don't remember quite who was responsible, I got pared up with Mr. Tilney. Which is why I am now calling him Mr. Tilney. Because just like Catherine Morland I was a stranger in Bath, alone and friendless, and out of the blue a handsome gentleman showed up and asked me to dance. Mr. Tilney is not a great dancer, by his own admission, but I will love him forever for dancing with me anyways. And I mean no one knew what they were doing so we were all messing up and laughing and it was perfect and magical. I can't even describe what it felt like for me to be dancing to live music in a beautiful ballroom wearing a beautiful gown and dancing with a handsome gentleman to boot.
Mr. Tilney is a total gentleman. I think he might be the most gentlemanly gentleman to ever gentleman. After the dance he gave me his arm and escorted me back to our table where we started talking. We talked and danced until dinner, when he gave me his arm and escorted me to dinner and told me about all the British food I was eating. Dinner and desert were delicious and I had a great time talking with everyone at my table. Ben told me about how his group was renting this fully restored Georgian townhouse, and how it was like they had time traveled staying there, and I was so jealous. Then Michelle asked if I would like to come over after the ball for drinks. !!!!!!! I'm pretty sure I started gushing an acceptance before she even finished her invitation.
After dinner the announcer man came over to say that there were card tables laid if we wished to play, and there was a game so easy even ladies could do it. Mr. Tilney escorted me to the card tables where Emma drafted me to take her losing hand in a game of Loo. I played against Ben, another man from his group named Paul, and Ruth (whose place was eventually taken by a woman named Allison). I lost miserably. I think there was only one hand that I actually won. The announcer guy suggested we place small bets, three little colored pieces of paper each. We decided to go bigger, eventually betting everything. Allison was an amazing card player, but Ben won in the end. Then we all went back in the ballroom for more dancing.
The ball ended at 11 although I don't think anyone was ready to leave. I went up to the organizer and told her about how I had woken up at 4 AM to get my ticket and backpacked across Europe with my dress in my bag and how I've longed to go to just this sort of thing my whole life and she gave me a big hug. Then we all gathered outside, Ben and Michelle, Mr. Tilney and me, and Paul and another member of their group named William. Mr. Tilney gave me his arm and escorted me back to their house. I walked through a Georgian city, in costume, on the arm of a Regency gentleman! The house was seriously GORGEOUS, I couldn't believe they were actually staying there. Apparently some of a film adaptation of Persuasion had been filmed in the drawing room. First Michelle showed me her room and we jumped on her bed which was great fun, then we all retired to the INCREDIBLE drawing room to sip champagne and talk. It wasn't lit by real candles, but it was lit by fake candles so the room had that dim candlelit glow. There were some other people there, some guests, some staying at the house, but all were in perfect costumes. I dubbed us the best costume club because it was basically all the best dressed people from the ball. All of them were fascinating, one lady turned out to be the woman who created that Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion exhibit and is like THE European expert on Regency fashion.
So there I was, sipping champagne in a Georgian townhouse with wonderful new friends and I don't even know if I can handle it. I had been so worried that no one would even talk to me, and here I was wearing a beautiful Regency dress surrounded by fascinating and super intelligent people in beautiful costumes sipping champagne in a gorgeous drawing room in a Georgian townhouse in Bath. Donald couldn't get over the fact that I had backpacked across Euopre with my dress, and I was voted most brave by pretty much everyone for going to the ball all by myself and not knowing anyone.
At about 3 AM most people had gone home, and those of us that were left decided to go to bed. Michelle lent me some PJs because at that point I obviously wasn't going home. I spent the night in a REAL bed you guys. I haven't slept in a real bed for two months! Then in the morning we all ate a big English breakfast on beautiful china, talked some more, and Michelle, Ben, and William gave me a ride back to my hostel.
Oh yes, and you know those dreams I had about the romantic evening with the handsome gentleman in the perfect costume? Those came true too. ;)
Every dream I have ever had came true. Including dreams I didn't even know I had. Dancing at the ball, meeting new friends, sipping champagne, great conversation, dancing with a handsome gentleman, a fairy tale romance. I don't even know how to describe how happy I was. And how happy I still am. It was literally the best night of my entire life. I could die happy now.