In case you are at a loss to understand the inherent significance of this particular event, I present a short disquisition on the subject. I ask those of you who already understand the meaning to bear with me patiently.
On the modern side: This evening offers flirtatious country dances taught and called on the spot, so that beginners may join immediately; scandalous waltzes; and the Congress of Vienna (a delightful modern creation, written by Regency dancing master John Hertz in the late 1970s).
And now the history: In ancient Greece, Aphrodite was the Goddess of Love (or at least lust, Romantic Love not having been yet invented). She was particularly revered on the Island of Cyprus, where the religious observances seem to have been pretty lively and full of the whole love (or lust) business.
The English gentleman, educated at university, would have spent his time there reading Latin and Greek, and so might have come across accounts of the activity on Cyprus. One supposes that the term "Cyprian", in addition to being a person from Cyprus, then took on the additional connotation of being a devotee of Aphrodite, which would then connote one of healthy sexual appetites. Therefore, Cyprians were women of easy virtue who catered particularly to the upper reaches of English society.
Women who chose this line of endeavor were no more considered common, back-alley whores than a thoroughbred would be considered just another horse. Cyprians were obliged not only to be sexually active, but also pleasant company and able entertainers (in the sense of being able to arrange for entertainments, not necessarily to perform) if they wished to not only attract a protector, but keep hold of him as well. As with all women of the time, if she wished to provide for herself when her youth and beauty were gone, the Cyprian had also to have a fine sense for business and practical arrangements. Many, like the celebrated Harriette Wilson, rather failed in the last category, and were pushed at last to attempt blackmail to replenish their incomes.
It seems that on an annual basis, Cyprians put on a ball
in London. On some occasions it seems to have gone on for days, with
people leaving and returning from time to time. One can only suppose
that the Cyprians were shopping around for protectors, and the men were
shopping around for companionship. It is in this spirit that BAERS presents
again the Cyprians' Ball, welcoming all to discover who is in the ton
this season, and who the most charming women in Town are.
Your most pedantic,
The Curmudgeon in the Library,
Mr. Phillip Kenning