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The Pleasure Garden, from Vauxhall to Coney Island

The Pleasure Garden, from Vauxhall to Coney Island

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    The Pleasure Garden, from Vauxhall to Coney Island
    Book Description:

    Summers at the Vauxhall pleasure garden in London brought diverse entertainments to a diverse public. Picturesque walks and arbors offered a pastoral retreat from the city, while at the same time the garden's attractions indulged distinctly urban tastes for fashion, novelty, and sociability. High- and low-born alike were free to walk the paths; the proximity to strangers and the danger of dark walks were as thrilling to visitors as the fountains and fireworks. Vauxhall was the venue that made the careers of composers, inspired novelists, and showcased the work of artists. Scoundrels, sudden downpours, and extortionate ham prices notwithstanding, Vauxhall became a must-see destination for both Londoners and tourists. Before long, there were Vauxhalls across Britain and America, from York to New York, Norwich to New Orleans. This edited volume provides the first book-length study of the attractions and interactions of the pleasure garden, from the opening of Vauxhall in the seventeenth century to the amusement parks of the early twentieth. Nine essays explore the mutual influences of human behavior and design: landscape, painting, sculpture, and even transient elements such as lighting and music tacitly informed visitors how to move within the space, what to wear, how to behave, and where they might transgress. The Pleasure Garden, from Vauxhall to Coney Island draws together the work of musicologists, art historians, and scholars of urban studies and landscape design to unfold a cultural history of pleasure gardens, from the entertainments they offered to the anxieties of social difference they provoked.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0732-3
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    When London’s Vauxhall Gardens closed in July 1859 many felt that it represented the end of an era. Whether under the moniker “New Spring Gardens,” “Vauxhall Gardens,” or “Royal Vauxhall Gardens,” at its close the Lambeth resort could claim a history stretching back to the Restoration, almost two centuries. Together with its many rivals, such as Ranelagh and Marylebone, Vauxhall Gardens provided jaded urbanites with a pleasant suburban retreat, a place in which to amuse themselves and entertain family and friends. Here they ate and drank, listened to music, admired paintings and sculpture, and enjoyed a variety of other spectacles,...

  4. Chapter 1 Theaters of Hospitality: The Forms and Uses of Private Landscapes and Public Gardens
    (pp. 29-48)

    One of the central issues of eighteenth-century English garden history is how we might situate within our habitual narratives the phenomenon of Vauxhall Gardens (and indeed other so-called public pleasure grounds in London and the provinces). A cluster of more specific issues emerges in the process of answering the general questions: how did the idea of what Horace Walpole called “gardenhood” undergo changes when private designs were transferred into the public sphere? Did its sceneries and other representations—of “countryside,” for example—require modifications as a result not only of changing taste but also of the different contexts in which...

  5. Chapter 2 Pleasure Gardens and Urban Culture in the Long Eighteenth Century
    (pp. 49-77)

    For well-off visitors to London in the eighteenth century, a trip to one or preferably both of the great pleasure gardens of Vauxhall and Ranelagh was de rigueur. Dazzling and vibrant, particularly once illuminated at night, they were among the top tourist attractions of the capital; in 1772 M. Grosley thought them “finer in appearance than the Houses of Parliament, Courts of Justice or the King’s Palace.”¹ However, their very brilliance, reported in coruscating prose by contemporary observers, has emphasized their individuality, encouraging commentators to investigate them as one-off phenomena. This has obscured the extent to which the great gardens...

  6. Chapter 3 Guns in the Gardens: Peter Monamy’s Paintings for Vauxhall
    (pp. 78-99)

    The reopening of the Vauxhall pleasure gardens in 1732 under the proprietorship of Jonathan Tyers has been identified as a key moment in the development of the relationship between British visual culture and the public sphere. In an effort to deliver the gardens from their former reputation—the fictional Sir Roger de Coverley commented that his visit to the gardens would have been more pleasurable had there been “more Nightingales, and fewer Strumpets”—Tyers made a number of improvements, including the installation of gravel walks, an open-air bandstand (the Orchestra), and a series of supper boxes.¹ By the early 1740s...

  7. Chapter 4 Performance Alfresco: Music-Making in London’s Pleasure Gardens
    (pp. 100-126)

    Pausing in Paris on a tour through France and Italy in 1770, the English music-historian Charles Burney noted his impressions on visiting a French version of a familiar haunt:

    I went to one of the Vaux Halls (they have 3 or 4 here) paid half a crown for my admission and had my eyes put out by the quantity of lights and my ears stunned by the number of fiddles etc for the dancing. When I have described this Vaux Hall it will be easy—no it will not be easy—to find the resemblance. It is on the Boulevard....

  8. Chapter 5 Pleasure Gardens of America: Anxieties of National Identity
    (pp. 127-149)

    Regularly described in very positive tones as “object[s] worthy at once of the notice of the connoisseur and the admiration of the community at large,” the pleasure gardens of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America were a source of pride, touted as a symbol of cultural accomplishment.¹ These sites were seen as distinctly American both in character and in the ideals they represented, as the epigraph here attests. Whether through their promotion of American industry, their association with agriculture and rural ideals, or their supposed lack of class divisions, this Philadelphian commentator was in no doubt that the pleasure gardens lay at...

  9. Chapter 6 Pleasure Gardens in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans: “Useful for All Classes of Society”
    (pp. 150-176)

    British-born architect Thomas Kelah Wharton (1814–62) came to New Orleans in 1853 as superintendent for the construction of the Customs House, and for nine years, during a golden age of urban growth and prosperity, he wrote about contemporary life in the antebellum community.¹ On 2 May 1854, he described a rail excursion that he took with his family to Carrollton, a community several miles from downtown:

    The trip was delightful and the cool fresh breeze on the river bank quite invigorating after the heat and dust of a day in town. We met pleasant friends in the gardens and...

  10. Chapter 7 Night and Day: Illusion and Carnivalesque at Vauxhall
    (pp. 177-194)

    Few literary evocations of Vauxhall Gardens fail to mention the presence or absence of light, and why should it be otherwise in accounts of a place visited almost exclusively at night? Fanny Burney’s 1778 heroine, Evelina, remarks on the “numerous lights” illuminating the scene at Vauxhall but ends by focusing her attention on the “dark walks,” those avenues left unlit for courting couples and predatory gentlemen. Boz, Charles Dickens’s alter ego of the 1830s, recalls an enchanted place “served up beneath the light of lamps” and “a few hundred thousand of additional [ones] dazzl[ing] our senses.”¹ The narrator of Vanity...

  11. Chapter 8 “Strange Beauty in the Night”: Whistler’s Nocturnes of Cremorne Gardens
    (pp. 195-216)

    The American painter James McNeill Whistler’s series of nocturnal paintings, particularly the paintings of Cremorne Gardens, has gained historical significance as one of the key markers for early modernism, where the site—the spectacle at Cremorne—intersects with its avant-garde representation. As a popular pleasure garden in Victorian London, Cremorne can be seen as a site for modernity, the visual equivalent, of the café and cabaret life depicted by Whistler’s contemporaries, the French Impressionists.

    As the Impressionists sought out popular sites of urban leisure, Whistler found at Cremorne a suitable subject that could be immediately recognized as a controversial site...

  12. Chapter 9 Edwardian Amusement Parks: The Pleasure Garden Reborn?
    (pp. 217-246)

    In early 1907, the Manchester Evening Chronicle made an intriguing announcement. Manchester’s Royal Botanical Gardens, opened in 1829 at Old Trafford, were undergoing a radical transformation. Under the direction of American businessman John Calvin Brown, the plant houses, fruit trees, flower beds, and rockeries were to be swept away, and many of the old architectural features of the gardens, including the “tunnel-alcove,” ivy-covered archways, and music stands, demolished. In their place, the White City Amusement Park—“such as are to be found all over the United States”—was being created at a reported cost of £50,000.¹ The plans for the...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 247-298)
  14. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 299-302)
  15. List of Contributors
    (pp. 303-306)
  16. Index
    (pp. 307-314)
  17. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 315-316)