What! the balm of her lips shall another man taste?
What! touched in the twirl by another's man's knee?
What! panting recline on another than me?
Sir, she's yours; from the grape you have press'd the soft blue,
From the rose you have shaken the tremulous dew;
What you've touched you may take. Pretty waltzer—adieu!
From every partner takes a kiss.
Then O! how natural the whim
That makes them loath to dance with him.
Liberal of feet, and lavish of her hands;
Hands which may freely range in public sight
Where ne’er before—but—pray “put out the light.”
Methinks the glare of yonder chandelier
Shines much too far—or I am much too near;
And true, though strange—Waltz whispers this remark,
“My slippery steps are safest in the dark!”
Byron provided a covering letter to his verse, purporting to be from the author, Horace Hornem, who describes his surprise on arriving at a ball,
to see poor dear Mrs. Hornem with her arms half round the loins of a hugh hussar-looking gentleman I never set eyes on before; and his, to say truth, rather more than half round her waist, turning round and round to a d____d see-saw up-and-down sort of tune, that reminded me of the “Black Joke,” only more “affettuoso,” till it made me quite giddy with wondering they were not so. By-and-by they stopped a bit, and I thought they would sit or fall down;—but no; with Mrs. H’s hand on his shoulder, “quam familiariter,” (as Terence said, when I was at school,) they walked about a minute, and then at it again, like two cock-chafers spitted on the same bodkin. I asked what all this meant, when, with a loud laugh, a child no older than our Wilhelmina said, “Lord! Mr. Hornem, can’t you see they’re valtzing?” or waltzing (I forget which); and then up she got, and her mother and sister, and away they went, and round-abouted it till supper-time.
But the advance of the waltz was not to be halted. In 1814, it stormed Almack's sacred precincts and by 1816, Thomas Wilson attempted to tame it in his Description of the Correct Method of Waltzing. Here he sets out detailed instructions for a series of 'attitudes' or figures, as they would be called today. Couples should form a circle and follow the same sequence of attitudes, he suggests, thus turning the waltz into a communal dance and robbing it of the dangerous individuality and opportunity for illicit intimacy otherwise afforded to each couple. The waltz is now generally considered chaste in comparison with Country DANCING, Cotillions, or any other species of DANCING, he concluded triumphantly.
On 16 July 1816, the Times reported: We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last … it is quite sufficient to cast one’s eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressor on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the civil examples of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion
Cruikshank's Cyprian's Ball at the Argyle Rooms, below, suggests the real waltz. While the women belonged to the demi-monde, many of their male partners would also have moved in court circles.
Where the devil had Lallie learnt to waltz? One shoulder propped against the wall of his sister’s ballroom, Hugo watched with a disenchanted eye as his wife twirled gracefully around the floor with Luke Fitzmaurice, bending and turning, their arms raised to permit now one, now the other to pass under. He knew the waltz was all the rage but, damn it, could she not have told him she was taking lessons? They could have learnt together if it came to that. As the dance progressed he became more irate, especially when the couple danced side to side, both facing away but with flirtatious backwards glances. Now Fitzmaurice turned her so that they both stepped forward, her back to his torso. Hugo clenched his teeth at the sight.
As the century wore on, the waltz became both faster and simpler. Gone were Wilson's nine attitudes that were to be danced almost balletically. In came the closed position and revolving steps that continue to distinguish it today.