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illuminated, into which everybody that loves eating, drinking, staring, or crowding, is admitted for 12d.* The building and disposition of the Gardens cost 16,000l. Twice a week there are to be ridottos, at guinea tickets, for which you are to have a supper and music. I was there last night, but did not find the joy of it. Vauxhall is a little better; for the Garden is pleasanter, and one goes by water."
The vast amphitheatre of Ranelagh has long since been razed to the ground; and those who, like the author, take an interest in local associations, and prefer to the dull realities of life the opportunity of identifying themselves with the gaiety and gallantry of a former age, will find in a pilgrimage to Ranelagh but little to remind them of the romance of the past. Ranelagh Gardens stood nearly on the banks of the Thames, on the site of what had formerly been a villa of Lord Ranelagh, but which now forms part of the Gardens lotted out to the old pensioners of Chelsea Hospital. An avenue of trees, which was formerly to be seen illuminated by a thousand lamps, and along which sauntered the wit, the rank, and the beauty of the last century, -now forms an almost solitary memento of the
* In the "Daily Advertiser" for the 23rd of April 1743, tickets for admitting two persons to Ranelagh are advertised to be sold at the Old Slaughter's Coffee House for one shilling and three pence each. Vauxhall tickets, admitting two persons, are advertised to be sold at the same place for one shilling each.
departed glories of Ranelagh. Attached to these trees, the author discovered one or two solitary iron fixtures, from which the variegated lamps were formerly suspended.
“When I first entered Ranelagh," says Dr. Johnson, "it gave an expansion and gay sensation to my mind, such as I never experienced anywhere else. But as Xerxes wept when he viewed his immense army, and considered that not one of that great multitude would be alive a hundred years afterwards, so it went to my heart to consider that there was not one in all that brilliant circle that was not afraid to go home and think; but that the thoughts of each individual there would be distressing when alone."-"It is a charming place," writes Evelina to her guardian, "and the brilliancy of the lights, on my first entrance, made me almost think I was in some enchanted castle or fairy palace, for all looked like magic to me."
The principal building at Ranelagh consisted of a vast Rotunda, with an orchestra in the centre, and tiers of boxes all round, in which the company took refreshments while the music played. These boxes, which were each capable of holding eight persons, were lighted by bell-shaped lamps, and painted with droll devices. On the right of the orchestra was a box set apart for the Royal Family, which was called the Prince of Wales's box, and was ornamented in front with his arms and other designs. From the ceiling of the Rotunda,
which was richly painted and decorated, hung two circles of chandeliers, which, when lighted, are said to have produced a most brilliant effect. Below the principal apartment was a large circular area, around which the company were in the habit of promenading, apparently with no better means of amusing themselves than staring at each other. Bloomfield, the poet, writes,
To Ranelagh, once in my life,
By good-natured force I was driven;
And Peace beamed her radiance from Heaven.
That a clown might enjoy or disdain?
A thousand feet rustled on mats,—
With corners so fearfully keen.
Had left all clothing else but a train,
The entertainments at Ranelagh, on its being first opened, appear to have been restricted to breakfasts, concerts, and oratorios, to which, at a later period, were added occasional balls and masquerades.
Mrs. Carter, in one of her letters, speaks of Ranelagh as distinguished by all the pomp and splendour of a Roman amphitheatre, "devoted to
no better purpose than a twelvepenny entertainment of cold ham and chicken." On the 1st of June 1742 she writes:-"In the evening my Lord W carried us to Ranelagh. I do not know how I might have liked the place in a more giddy humour, but it did not strike me with any agreeable impression; but, indeed, for the most part, these tumultuary torch-light entertainments are very apt to put one in mind of the revel routs of Comus. I was best pleased with walking about the Gardens: it was a delightful evening, and with two or three people I should have thought them quite charming; but these scenes to me lose much of their beauty and propriety in a noisy crowd. 'Soft stillness, and the night, and the touches of sweet harmony,' are naturally adapted to a kind of discourse vastly different from beaux and fine ladies. In the room we met with my friend and your friend, the knight of the woeful countenance, Sir T. Robinson, who looks more woefully than ever."
When Captain Mirvan, in "Evelina," inveighs against Ranelagh as a dull place,a dull place," Ranelagh dull! Ranelagh dull!' was echoed from mouth to mouth, and the ladies, as of one accord, regarded the Captain with looks of the most ironical contempt. As to Ranelagh,' said Mr. Lovel, most indubitably, though the price is plebeian, it is by no means adapted to the plebeian taste. quires a certain acquaintance with high life, andand—and something of-of-something d'un vrai
goût, to be really sensible of its merit. Those whose-whose connections, and so forth, are not among les gens comme il faut, can feel nothing but ennui at such a place as Ranelagh."" Mr. Lovel's apology for Ranelagh is so lame, that we are inclined to believe that Captain Mirvan was in the right. Indeed, we can hardly place much faith in the liveliness of Ranelagh, when we find its chief amusement to be,
To trace the gay circle all round,
It appears that not long after the opening of Ranelagh, in consequence of the temptations which it held out to young men of business to neglect their duties, the morning amusements were prohibited. The doors after this opened at six o'clock in the evening; performances commenced at eight, and concluded at ten o'clock.
During the sixty years that it was open to the public, we find more than one magnificent fête taking place at Ranelagh, in addition to its ordinary routine of amusements. For instance, in April 1749, George the Second was present at the Grand Jubilee, accompanied by the Prince and Princess of Wales, and his second son, the Duke of Cumberland; but, perhaps, the most splendid entertainment which it ever witnessed was on the occasion of a famous regatta, in June 1775. The magnificent band was led by the celebrated Giardini, and the admission-ticket was engraved by Bartolozzi.