Social Life in Queen Anne's Reign, Volume I.

Ashton, John


CHAPTER XI: Cosmetics, Etc.

CHAPTER XI: Cosmetics, Etc.


THERE was one social habit that the two sexes had in common, and that was in taking snuff: nay, it was more than hinted that some of the fair sex smoked-not nice little fairy 'Paquitas' or dainty little cigarettes, but nasty, heavy, clumsy clay pipes. The subject will be discussed in another part, but now we merely glance at the prevalence of the habit-not so much with the ladies, as it was later on in the century, but with the gentlemen; and the quantity taken, in the latter part of the reign, was excessive.

It is a marvel how the ladies at first allowed it, for it was the custom in society for a gentleman to kiss all the ladies in a room-a custom frequently mentioned in contemporary literature, and therefore only requiring one quotation [1] to illustrate it: 'The other Day entering a Room adorned with the Fair Sex, I offered, after the usual Manner, to each of them a Kiss; but one, more scornful than the rest, turned her Cheek. I did not think it proper to take any Notice of it till I had asked your Advice.'

Besides, the ladies were undoubtedly fond of sweet smells, perfumes, and scents; and one, in particular, seems to have possessed remarkable properties. 'The Princely Perfume. Being a most delightful Powder, which incomparably scents Handkerchiefs, Gloves, and all Sorts of Linnen, making them smell most deliciously oderiferous, fine and charming; it perfumes the Hands, the Hair of the Head, and Periwigs


most delicately, also all Manner of Cloaths, Beds, Rooms, Scrutores, Presses, Drawers, Boxes, and all other Things, giving them a most admirable, pleasant and durable Scent, which is so curiously fragrant, so delectably sweet, reviving and enlivening, that no Perfume or Aromatick in the World, can possibly come near it; it never raises the vapours in Ladies, but, by its delicious Odour, Fragrancy and charming Perfume (which is really Superior to all other Scents upon Earth) it refreshes the Memory, cures the Head Ach, takes away Dulness and Melancholy, makes the Heart glad, and encreases all the Spirits, Natural, Vital, and Animal, to a Wonder.' [2]  And there was a much bepuffed scent called the 'Royal Essence,' which, besides being a paragon of perfume, had the useful quality of curling the Periwig.

But the prince of perfumers and puffers was , whose connection with the is so well known, and who was so belauded, that , or , in No. 96, had to issue a disclaimer. 'Whereas several have industriously spread abroad, that I am in partnership with the perfumer, at the corner of Beaufort Buildings ;-I must say with my friend PARTRIDGE, that they are Knaves who reported it. However, since the said Charles has promised that all his customers shall be mine, I must desire all mine to be his; and dare answer for him, that if you ask in my name for Snuff, Hungary or orange water, you shall have the best the town affords at the cheapest rate.'

When died, he left his MS. receipts behind him, made into a book, but it was never published till ; and he gives a long list of the scents in use.


This reads like a very sufficient list of scents; that it was not greater was undoubtedly owing to the disturbed state of trade, and the absence of geographical discoverywhich of late years has greatly increased the perfumer's repertoire.

There were soaps enough, in all conscience-Joppa, Smyrna, Jerusalem, Genoa, Venice, Castille, Marseilles, Alicant, French, Gallipoly, Curd, Irish, Bristol, Windsor, Black, and Liquid Soaps-and yet the ladies would use abominations called 'Wash balls.' These must have been a profitable manufacture, for the makers advertised freely in the papers. Let us look into a 'Composition for best Wash balls. Take forty pounds of rice in fine powder, twenty-eight pounds of fine flour, twenty-eight pounds of Starch powder, twelve pounds of white lead, and four pounds of Oris root in fine powder; but no whitening. Mix the whole well together, and pass it twice through a fine hair seive; then place it in a dry place, and keep it for use. Great care must be taken that the flour be not Musty, in which case the balls will in time crack, and fall to pieces. To this composition may be added Dutch pink, or brown fine damask powder, &c., according to the Colour required when the wash balls are quite dry.' These wash balls were in some variety-common, best camphor, ambergris, Bologna, marbled, figured, Greek, Marseilles, Venice, and chemical.

This making up of complexions was an art, and would not bear trifling with. 'Madam, who dress'd you ? Here's this Tooth set in the wrong way, and your Face so besmear'd ! What Complection do you use ? This is worse than they


daub Sign posts with; I never saw any thing so frightful.' [3]  Naturally, with such an ingredient as white lead in their composition, these wash balls were injurious to the skin-- a letter in , No. 41. ' Her skin is so tarnished with this Practice, that when she first wakes in a Morning, she scarce seems young enough to be the Mother of her whom I carried to bed the Night before.' No wonder, for they used carmine, French red, Portuguese dishes, Spanish wool and papers, Chinese wool, and they had, also, pretty little lacquered boxes of paints for the toilette sent over from China. There was a wonderful 'bloom' advertised, ' The famous Bavarian Red Liquor, which gives such a blushing Colour to the Cheeks of those that are white or pale, that it is not to be distinguished from a natural fine Complection, nor perceived to be Artificial by the nearest Friend, is nothing of Paint, or in the least hurtful, but good in many Cases to be taken inwardly; it renders the Face delightfully handsome and beautiful, is not subject to be rub'd off like Paint, therefore cannot be discovered by any one.' There were also pearl and bismuth powders for the face.

Rose and white lip salves were used as now, but their dentifrices were peculiar, to say the least, if this is a fair sample: 'Take four ounces of Coral, reduced to an unpalpable powder, eight ounces of very light Armenian bole, one ounce of Portugal Snuff, one ounce of Havanah Snuff, one ounce of the ashes of good tobacco, which has been burnt, and one ounce of gum myrrh, which has been well pulverised. Mix all these well together, and sift them twice.' An inferior tooth powder was made by leaving out the coral and substituting old broken pans (brown stone ware) reduced to a very fine powder. These mixtures were either rubbed on the teeth with the finger, or else used with a vegetable tooth brush or 'Dentissick Root,' which seems to have been made out of the roots of the marsh mallow, partially dried, and then fried in a mixture of rectified spirits, dragon's blood, and conserve of roses, until they were hard; when one end was bruised with a hammer, in order to open the fibres and form a rudimentary brush. There were dentists, both male and


female, and they seem to have been so far successful that some of them guarantee their patients being able to eat with the false teeth after they were fixed. 'So firm and exact as to be eat on, and not to be discover'd by any Person from Natural Ones.'

The usual way of darkening the hair was by the mechanical means of a leaden comb. [4]  'Jenny Trapes ! What that Carrot pated Jade that Lodges at the Corner of White Horse Alley !--The Same indeed, only She has black'd her Hair with a Leaden Comb.' But there were also in those days, as we find by an advertisement, that etc.

Should the sight fail, it could be aided by spectacles, as now-but they were awsome things-with heavy horn, tortoiseshell, or silver rims, and were certainly no adjuncts to personal appearance. They varied in price from 4d. to 25s. per pair.


[1] Spectator, No. 272.

[2] Daily Courant, Feb. 14, 1708.

[3] The Gentleman Cully, ed. 1702.

[4] Tunbridge Walks, ed. 1703.