Are you a bit of a flirt? Do you sometimes catch an attractive man’s eye, then deliberately look away. Give him a little knowing smile. It’s all innocent fun and part of the games we play with each other. The Victorians were no different. While researching my new book ‘Diamonds & Dust, A Victorian Murder Mystery’ I delved into the world of nineteenth century courtship. It was a fascinating journey.
Of course there were certain restrictions that do not apply today. Young ladies were not allowed to be alone with a gentleman unless they were properly engaged. You couldn’t even say ‘hello’ to the prospective love of your life until he had been formally introduced by a mutual friend. There were no mobile phones to send flirty messages, or indicate your availability. And most of your obvious charms were covered up in a crinoline, bonnet and button boots, or hidden under layers of corsets and uncomfortable underwear (the average weight of a Victorian lady’s underwear mid-century was 14 lbs).
But if you were a canny lass, you had one infallible way of indicating to that handsome beau that you fancied him rotten: you could use your fan.
Fans were an extension of the Victorian lady’s body and the language of the fan was an important part of the dating ritual. Once you had mastered its subtle messages, you could go an awful long way down the matrimonial path solo and unchaperoned. So here are some of the top flirty ‘’moves’’:
Fast fan movement - I am independent
Slow fan movement - I am engaged
Fan resting on right cheek - Yes
Fan resting on left cheek - No
Drawing fan across forehead - We are being watched
Fanning face with fan held in right hand - Leave me alone
Swinging the fan - Will you see me home?
What I love about this is that it shows how women, in an age of male dominance, and rigid social formality, still found a way to subvert the rules. Of course, the effectiveness of the fan relied upon one very big unknown: that the gentleman in question also knew the language! If he did not, the ensuing results could be pretty disastrous....
Diamonds & Dust tells the stories of three feisty young woman. Orphaned 18 year old Josephine King, rescued from a dreadful boarding school by her uncle Herbert King - and then re-orphaned once more when he is brutally murdered. Spoilt clever Isabella Thorpe, whose domineering Mama plans to marry her off to a totally unsuitable man and Lilith Marks, high-society prostitute and Herbert King’s mistress. Their various lives and adventures play out against the background of 1860’s London, with its gas-lit streets and dark dangerous alleyways.
Carol Hedges is the successful UK author of 11 books for teenagers and young adults and one ebook. Her novels have been shortlisted for various prizes and her YA novel Jigsaw was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal. Diamonds & Dust is her first adult novel and is published by Crooked Cat Books.
It is available on Amazon at: Diamonds and Dust
and to order in all good bookshops
Find Carol on Twitter: @carolJhedges
Read her blog: http://carolhedges.blogspot.co.uk
Visit her Amazon author page: Amazon UK