Just as a modern women’s magazine gives us potions and poisons to age-defy, beautify, and shine, the cits of Regency England were given an insider scoop to haute ton beauty recipes by A Lady of Distinction. Published in 1811, historians speculate that the author was most likely a governess or ladies maid…on the fringe of the ton, but not quite up to snuff herself.
In addition to beauty secrets, the Mirror of Graces delivers techniques of fashion, dancing, and assorted finer things an aspiring debutante might need to know. Ackerman’s Repoitory (May 1811) had this to say: “You will really be pleased with the book… This book teaches the art of combining a delicate taste with a correct judgment, without either aiding our vanities, or infringing on our duties”
How delightful and telling that women through the ages have always sought the competitive edge by ape-ing the reigning celebs.
Recipes from The Mirror of Graces, by a Lady of Distinction, 1811
“This is a cleanser and brightener of the head and hair, and should be applied in the morning. Beat up the whites of six eggs into a froth, and with that annoint the head close to the roots of the hair. Leave it to dry on; then wash the head and hair thoroughly with a mixture of rum and rose-water in equal quantities.”
Pommade de Seville
[This simple application is much in request with the Spanish Ladies, for taking of the effects of the sun, and to render the complexion brilliant.]
Take equal parts of lemon juice and white of eggs. Beat the whole together in a varnished earthen pipkin, and set on a slow fire. Stir the fluid with a wooden spoon till it has acquired the consistence of soft pomatum. Perfume it with some sweet essence, and, before you apply it, carefully wash the face with rice water.
A Wash for the Face
[This receipt is well know in France, and much extolled by the ladies of that country as efficacious and harmless]
Take equal parts of the seeds of the melon, pompion, gourd, and cucumber, pounded and reduced to powder or meal; add to it fresh cream, sufficient to dilute the flour; beat all up together, adding a sufficient quantity of milk, as it may be required, to make an ointment, and then apply it to the face: leave it there for half an hour, and then wash it off with warm, soft water.
A Wash to give Lustre to the Face
Infuse wheat-bran well-sifted, for three or four hours in white wine vinegar; add to it five yolks of eggs and a grain or two of ambergris, and distil the whole. When the bottle is carefully corked, keep it for 12 or 15 days before you make use of it.