Hello fellow readers, today I have a guest post by Maria Grace, as part of 'The Trouble To Check Her' Virtual Book Tour.
I have no doubt, you will enjoy reading it as much as I did. I am always delighted to hear about the societal past times of Jane Austen's era.
Games Lydia Might Play By Maria Grace
Back in Jane Austen’s day, courtship and flirtation were very different than they are today. Social restrictions meant that couples could have very little contact with one another in company and none in private. Parlor games provided one of the few outlets for acceptable interactions between young people.
Rachel Revel, spinster, published a book in 1825, ‘Winter Evening Pastimes or The Merry Maker’s Companion’ that offers guidelines for various amusements suitable for genteel company in the drawing room. Many of the games are somewhat familiar, though we often consider them children’s games rather than adult pastimes. Even more interesting is the way that normal, strict social conventions may be bent or even ignored for the sake of the play.
Some games allow for the potential of physical touch that would earn censure in other contexts. It is easy for me to see how a girl like Lydia Bennet might have taken advantage of the opportunities afforded by some of these games.
For example, consider Buffy Gruffy: One player, with a blindfold over the eyes, stands in the middle of the room. The others arrange their chairs in a circle and silently trade places. Someone claps to start the game. The blindfolded person passes around the chairs and stops in front of one. The player may use his knees to determine if someone is sitting in that chair, physical contact generally not permitted in polite social contexts, especially between gentlemen and ladies.
The blindfolded player begins questioning the seated player who answers while disguising their voice as much as possible. Here is an excellent opportunity for an individual to mock someone they do not like all under the guise of polite hilarity. After three answers, the blindfolded player must guess who they have questions. If they are correct, the seated player takes the blindfold and play begins anew. Else, the blindfolded player moves on to question another.
Others games open the possibility for people to say things most shocking. I can easily imagine a group of young ladies or young men conspiring together to cause their friends to say very surprising things in the course of this game.
CROSS QUESTIONS AND CROOKED ANSWERS:
Players are seated in a circle. The starting player asks his right-hand neighbor a question, as for example, “What is the use of a cat?" The person interrogated might answer, “To kill the rat, that ate the malt, that lay in the house that Jack built,” or some other similar and somewhat ridiculous response. The player who has answered then turns to their neighbor and asks their own question, perhaps “What is the use of a looking-glass?” to which the answer might be “To reflect our perfect likeness.”
The play continues around the circle with each player recalling the question they have asked and the answer they have given for at the end each player will recite the question asked of me was_______________ and the answer is of course______________. In this case, they would say “The question asked of me was what is the use of a cat, and the answer is of course to reflect our perfect likeness.” If any player cannot recite their question and answer correctly, they must pay a forfeit.
Other word games offer the opportunity to ask questions of someone of the opposite sex that might not be otherwise asked. Humor may easily be a front for something more serious.
The players are seated in a circle, with a lady and gentleman alternately. A lady commences the game by asking her right-hand neighbor a question, to which he replies with a single syllable words. Longer words will exact a penalty, one for each additional syllable. He then turns to the next lady with a question to be answered with a single syllable.
The questions may be mundane as in: Pray, Sir, permit me to ask if you love dancing? Or unique as in: Pray, Madam, what wood do you think the best for making thumb-screws? The challenge comes in that neither question NOR answer may be repeated. Any player who repeats a question or answer incurs a forfeit.
Musical magic provides, with the assistance of one’s friends, the perfect opportunity to flirt openly under the cover of being a good sport.
One, of the party is made to quit the room until the rest determined what task he will be required to perform. The task can be as simple as snuffing a candle, for a novice player, or as complex as kneeling before another player, removing their ring and placing it on the finger of the other player, for an experienced player. The player is guided in divining his task by the playing of music from soft or loud. When the player is close to the object or action he must do next, the music becomes louder until it stops when he has gotten it right. The further away the player the softer the music. If the player in despair, gives up a forfeit must be paid and another player takes his place.
The aviary provides even greater latitude, allowing the players to confide a secret to another, openly and in public. Oh, so many opportunities for collusion among willing parties to allow improper behavior to occur.
The person who leads this game (the birdman) should have a very good memory to avoid blunders or a piece of paper and pencil to keep track of all the birds in the aviary.
All of the players select a bird to be in the aviary and whispers their choice to the birdman. The birdman then instructs: Ladies and gentlemen, my aviary is complete, and I will thank you now to inform me to which of these you give the preference, or which are objects of your dislike.
The birdman then asks each player three questions: To which of my birds you will give your heart? To which you will confide your secret? From which will you pluck a feather?
The player will answer for example: I give my heart to the goldfinch; my secret to the parrot; and pluck a feather from the crow. The birdman notes down these answers. Should the player select a bird not on the list, he must pay a forfeit and select another until the answers are complete. Once all the players have responded the birdman reveals the identity of each bird. Then each player kneels to the bird to whom he has given his heart; discloses something in confidence to the bird chosen for the secret; and the person from whom a feather was plucked pays a forfeit.
I must admit, after reading these, and many others of the games included in this book, I was quite surprised at how close to the line of impropriety many of these games might be. It is not difficult to imagine young people conspiring together to make these games work to their advantage in games of flirtation and matchmaking. I wonder how many hearts were won and lost in the mists of these popular winter pastimes.
At the start of my latest book, Lydia would certainly have enjoyed any and all of these games. But is her character truly fixed at the most determined flirt that ever made her family ridiculous? Perhaps not when Mr. Darcy takes … The Trouble to Check Her.
Thank you for sharing Maria and congratulations on your new book. I always delight in hearing about the customs and proprieties of the Regency era!
Lydia Bennet faces the music…
Running off with Mr. Wickham was a great joke—until everything turned arsey-varsey. That spoilsport Mr. Darcy caught them and packed Lydia off to a hideous boarding school for girls who had lost their virtue.
It would improve her character, he said.
Ridiculous, she said.
Mrs. Drummond, the school’s headmistress, has shocking expectations for the girls. They must share rooms, do chores, attend lessons, and engage in charitable work, no matter how well born they might be. She even forces them to wear mobcaps! Refusal could lead to finding themselves at the receiving end of Mrs. Drummond's cane—if they were lucky. The unlucky ones could be dismissed and found a position … as a menial servant.
Everything and everyone at the school is uniformly horrid. Lydia hates them all, except possibly the music master, Mr. Amberson, who seems to have the oddest ideas about her. He might just understand her better than she understands herself.
Can she find a way to live up to his strange expectations, or will she spend the rest of her life as a scullery maid?
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