French Influence in the
Madam, I did not think your ladyship Had so little judgment . . . As to let an Englishman draw your picture, And such rare monsieurs in town . . . You must encourage strangers, while you live; It is the character of our nation, we are famous For dejecting our own countrymen. . . . Trust, while you live, the Frenchman with your legs, Your faces with the Dutch . . .
James Shirley, The Ball, III. iii. 33-45
Shirley's play was licensed for performance at the end of 1632 (the year in which the most sought-after Dutch portraitist, Van Dyck, took up residence in England). The Ball's satire on the court and its prevailing fashions proved almost too close for comfort; Lord Herbert, the Master of the Revels, considered having the play banned because 'there were divers personated so naturally, both of lords and others of the court, that I took it ill'.1 The word 'ball' is itself a French borrowing.2 As its use in the title of Shirley's play might lead us to expect, learning dancing from Frenchmen is singled out for particular scorn as a fashionable affectation. Shirley's Monsieur le Frisk is a caricature who could have been based on any number of French dancingmasters in London in the 1630s. He implies that he is essentially a dance specialist (while other Frenchmen excel at violin-playing): 'My broder, my lord, know well for de litle kit -- he fiddle -- and me for de posture of de body.____________________