ABSTRACT

W hy does anyone don a mask? T o achieve anonym ity apd thereby gain freedom o f action, for one thing. W ith her vizard, M rs Pepys could visit the naughty playhouse w ithou t sullying her reputation. The ‘dom inoes’ and ‘shepherdesses’ o f Stuart and G eorgian m asquerades could carry on intrigues incognito , as T om Jones discovered. Lady M ary W ortley M ontagu, visiting Istanbul in 1717, concluded that Europeans m isjudged the M uslim veil: far from being a sym bol o f servitude, it gave T urk ish w om en an enviable freedom to behave as they pleased, to m asquerade the year round. In England, playhouse prostitutes soon adopted the vizard, achieving at a stroke social equality w ith M rs Pepys and an elegant badge o f office. But, since any ‘m ask’ was then apt to be propositioned, respectable w om en had henceforth to attend bare-faced: the vizard had acquired its ow n identity.