A fascinating heavy baluster dram glass of historical interest. The glass itself is a particularly good example of the classic type of heavy baluster dram glass with a round funnel bowl with heavy base above a large inverted baluster stem with central tear standing on a plain conical foot with an unusual step or terrace on the upper part of the foot. Under the bowl rim, in diamond point, is engraved the legend “A Change so swift what Heart did ever feel” Also there is an engraved cupid’s heart with an arrow and a swastika (at that time a symbol of love). It would seem that this glass is a suitable candidate for having been used by members of the famous and influential 18th century Kit-Cat Club. (See notes below.)
Height 4½ inches;
Bowl diameter 2½ inches;
Foot diameter 2¾ inches.
In good original condition. Fairly heavy wear to underside of the foot.
This glass’s links with the Kit-Cat Club are not possible to be either proved or disproved. However, the following notes may provide some thoughts that allow us to piece together and speculate on the true history of the glass.
The engraved writing around the glass is a quote from the highly influential John Dryden, a highly regarded poet and playwright of his time. The legend is a quote from Dryden’s play script ‘The Spanish Fryar’, first published in1681. The play includes the characters Leonora, Queen of Arragon and Torrismond, a general. The Queen’s father had bequeathed his crown to her and also her hand in marriage to Prince Bertran. Torrismond, a soldier who had been banished to the frontiers and had risen to become a general, falls hopelessly in love with her and she with him. However, on realizing the inappropriateness of the relationship she sends him away from court only to change her mind almost immediately when she says the words engraved on the glass… “A Change so swift what Heart did ever feel”
Dryden was an influential poet and playwright who “held court” in a drinking club called the The Witty Club in Will’s Coffee House, a club to which aspiring writers clamoured to be a member of. One of the members, Jacob Tonson, was Dryden’s publisher and founder member of the Kit-Cat Club. Upon Dryden’s death in 1700 the Kit-Cat club prospered at the expense of the Witty Club. Part of the official ’business’ of these clubs was that after their meal they would nominate a ‘beauty.’ This was done by reciting a clever, witty poem extolling the virtues of their chosen subject of adulation and then drinking a toast to her. Part of the ritual was engraving on a glass with a diamond her name and a piece of complimentary verse. Ophelia Fields, in her book “The Kit-Cat Club”, says that no engraved glass as described appears to have survived, although she later referred to a glass engraved with the name of Mrs Walpole from the Hartshorne collection and sold at Bonhams in December 2010 as described by Hartshorne as being a Kit-Cat Club toasting glass. Unfortunately that glass has a wooden replacement foot.
In light of the attributes of the glass on offer it seems not unreasonable to propose the possibility that this glass is one of the original Kit-Cat toasting glasses: the glass dates to circa 1700, has a quote from Dryden engraved on it and has considerable of wear on the foot which indicates long and regular use.