Vauxhall Gardens: A History

Amanda Vickery writes:

Eighteenth-century historians can’t get enough of pleasure gardens. They seem to crystallise the new and distinctive features of Georgian society and culture in one fabulous setting. As places of commerce masquerading as wooded groves, pleasure gardens offered idealised rus in urbe. They could seem poetic in the dusk as the visitor listened to the evening chorus of resident songbirds, but were transportingly magical as night fell and hundreds, if not thousands, of lights were illuminated in the trees and colonnades. For the price of a ticket, one could enjoy musical performances and refreshments al fresco, or simply see and be seen. Princes rubbed shoulders with prostitutes, duchesses with doctors’ daughters: the social mix was a large part of the gardens’ attraction at the time and our fascination with them now. They seem to have epitomised the comparative openness of a polite and commercial people addicted to congregation, artifice and performance.

(LRB 7 Febuary 2013)