What do Vauxhall, the court of Queen Elizabeth, Cuper's Gardens, (which is described intriguingly as "the scene of low dissipation . . . and the great resort of the profligate of both sexes" — rather like our local mall,) the celebration of the wedding of George III, and Kensington Gardens have in common?
Fireworks. Big, bright rockets and Catherine wheels and crackers. Fireworks were the sound and light show of the Eighteenth Century. The extravaganza that marked all great and festive events.
Sometimes there was music. You can listen to Handel's Fireworks Music, for instance, here. I'll admit I was expecting something with more booms in it.
“.... fireworks had for her a direct and magical appeal. Their attraction was more complex than that of any other form of art. They had pattern and sequence, colour and sound, brilliance and mobility; they had suspense, surprise, and a faint hint of danger; above all, they had the supreme quality of transience, which puts the keenest edge on beauty.”
Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver
Fireworks came out of China, like printing, dim sum and Bruce Lee. The original fireworks date back to the Ninth Century or so. They, were firecrackers made of gunpowder, stuffed into thin bamboo shoots. Oddly enough, the original use of pyrotechnics was not warfare. All this gunpowder was set off at the new year to scare away evil spirits. It probably worked.
Knowledge of gunpowder arrived in the Middle East and Europe in the 1200s. Marco Polo sometimes gets the credit, and why shouldn't he?
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