30 January 1815
The Life and Letters of Faraday
- Bence Jones (author)
Longmans, Green and Co.
Monday, 30th. ― Went in a domino to the mask ball this morning, and was much amused, though there were but few people, and the greater number were in their common day-dress. The theatre in which it was held was a very fine one, large and in excellent condition, and extremely well lighted. A vast number of chandeliers were suspended from all parts of the roof and filled with wax-candles, and every box was also lighted up. The stage and the pit were thrown together by a flight of steps. The pit was given for waltzing and the stage for cotillon and country dances, and two good bands of music were employed in the theatre. Other rooms in the wings were thrown open, some for dancing and some for refreshments. The three lower tiers of boxes were shut, but the rest were open to the maskers and the people in the house. A guard of soldiers was placed in the house to preserve order, and a gentleman in black with a cocked hat sat in the centre box and overlooked the whole. He appeared to enjoy the scene very slightly, and was, I suppose, there as fulfilling a duty in looking over the whims of the place.
In the afternoon there was much masking in the Corso, and the sugar-plums, which were only seen in the sellers' baskets on the first evening, were now flying in the air. These confetti, as they are called, are merely plaster or old mortar broken into small pieces and dropped in a mixture of whiting; but the men take care to sell them dear, though the price generally depends upon the eagerness of the purchaser at any moment to have them. With these the battles are carried on between mask and mask or between carriage and carriage. None but masks are allowed to throw, although this rule is transgressed from every window. The most dreadful contests are carried on between the carriages as they pass each other, and I found the English were much more eager at this sport than the Romans. I know an English window from which eight crowns' worth of confetti were thrown this afternoon.
In my way to the Academy Lanesi I made a great blunder ― I mistook a burial for part of the masquerade!!! But from the habit of the priests and mourners who attended it, it might be thought the mistake was theirs who put religion in those things, rather than mine who took it for masking. Their sackcloth coats, very similar to what the masked clowns and punchinellos wear; their enormous knotted cords tied round their waists; their sandals and their caps, like a brewer's straining-bag, with two little holes for the eyes, were as complete a mask as it is possible to make; and it was not till by chance I saw the body that I thought it was a serious affair.