Sunday, July 2, 2017

Dancing with Miss Whieldon

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In early 1828, Herman Melville's sister Helen Maria was among the lucky few studying with Mrs. Whieldon, then conducting lessons "in the literary branches" at Miss Whieldon's Boarding and Day School on 440 Broome street. In earlier years, when their school was located right on Broadway, Mr. Whieldon also taught there, giving lectures on Natural Philosophy, Geography, and Astronomy.

Twice a week, along with his brother Gansevoort and sister Augusta, young Herman Melville (nine years old) went to Broome and Broadway--for dancing lessons from the "fair teacher Miss Whieldon," as their father called the unmarried instructor, apparently the Whieldons' daughter. Allan Melvill named Miss Whieldon as the children's Dancing teacher in the letter he wrote Peter Gansevoort on February 23, 1828. Hershel Parker makes great use of Allan's letter including the matter of Dancing in the first volume of Herman Melville: A Biography (pages 38-39).

The Melvill children's "Miss Whieldon" may have been Ann G. Whieldon. Educated in London and Bath, England, the daughter of William Whieldon died in New York City "of a lingering illness" on Monday, February 2, 1829. According to the obituary, funeral services began at "her late residence 440 Broome Street, corner of Broadway," also the address of Miss Whieldon's Dancing Academy.

After the obit of February 3, 1829, I have not found any more news of the Whieldons in the Evening Post. From the New York Evening Post, September 19, 1827:
Miss Whieldon, begs leave to return her best thanks to her friends and the public, for the very liberal support she received last winter, and encouraged by the hope of a continuance of their patronage, she begs leave to announce her intention of opening her Dancing Academy, on Monday, October 1st. Her usual advantages of having monthly from Europe, the newest figures of English, French, and Spanish Dancing, will be continued during the ensuing season. Miss W. can give references, to families of distinction, whose children she has had the honor of instructing. Those pupils, who may wish to dance at her hall, are requested to enter as soon as possible after the commencement of her academy. 
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