Victorian Behaviors Of Love By Eve Pearce

imagesAntique Romance – Victorian Flirting Techniques

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, now is perhaps a good time to have a quick look at how our ancestors conducted themselves when it came to flirtation. While we tend to think of the Victorians as a rather severe, staid bunch, they were (of course) just as subject to the tempestuous passions of the heart as we are today – although they had some curious ways of showing it. Try some of these upon the object of your desire if you wish, but do not be surprised if you get odd looks rather than outbursts of affection in return!

Parasol Tilting

A Victorian lady who innocently thought her parasol a utilitarian device for shading her face from the sun may have found herself the object of unsolicited ardor during her perambulation through the park. The manner in which a parasol was held carried a plethora of meanings to the practiced flirt – so much so, in fact, that a parasol could barely be held at all without it conveying some message to amorous onlookers in the know. To carry the parasol aloft in the left hand indicated that you desired to know someone better. To do the same in the right chastised suitors for their eagerness. Letting it rest upon the left or right cheeks meant ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ respectively, while dropping it upon the ground was an out and out declaration of love (which must have led the clumsy into awkward situations). Even those who carried folded parasols were not safe from unintentional flirting – to fold the parasol was an order for a suitor to leave immediately, carrying it over the shoulder accused observers of cruelty, and swinging it at the sides meant either that you were married or engaged (depending upon which side you swung the instrument at). There were a great many different meanings, which one can only imagine caused a great deal of confusion at the time given that one cannot always be aware of the position of one’s parasol. However, the Victorians did not discuss the affairs of the heart openly (to do so was considered vulgar), rendering such secret languages necessary. These became increasingly complex.

1890-1900-Valentine-DieCutThe Language of Flowers

One of the most detailed and complicated of these secret love-languages was the Language of Flowers. Quite a beautiful idea, this involved flowers being assigned a meaning and presented to the beloved, who would get a delicious sense of secret communication alongside the simple pleasure brought by beautiful blooms. The language grew in popularity, with new flowers and new meanings added until the list was extremely extensive. Some of the meanings were far more risqué than we’d expect of a Victorian device – presenting a lover with pea blossom, for example, was an exhortation for them to meet your for an assignation by moonlight, while Spanish jasmine indicated that you found them headily sensual and aconite told of unbridled sexual lust. However, it must be remembered that the Victorians, although disinclined to discuss matters of the bedroom, were subject to much the same lusts and passions as we are – if not more so. Indeed, Queen Victoria herself wrote feverishly in her diaries of how much she enjoyed her husband’s body, while research done by Dr Clelia Mosher in the Victorian era indicates that, far from being sexually restrained, Victorian women relished and enjoyed sex perhaps more than their modern counterparts. Their men were no different. Notably, it was during the Victorian era that a good many intimately contracted diseases took hold. Those innocent-looking flowers clearly have a lot to answer for.

Eye-Speech

It is said that the eyes speak volumes. The Victorians appear to have taken this rather literally. While a cheeky wink is still seen as flirtatious today, the Victorians had such an extensive repertoire of eyelid-based communication that one cannot help but wonder if their continuous blinking caused them to bump into things. Winking with the right eye indicated love, while the left indicated hate. So far so good. From then on, however, the language becomes complex and, one assumes, likely to put the face of the beloved through such contortions as to render them quite unattractive. For example, raising the eyebrows and placing the right forefinger to the left eye meant ‘You are handsome, kiss me’, while winking first one eye and then the other in rapid succession was a complicated way of issuing a simple ‘Yes’.

Window Posture

After a long day of being chased by amorous parasol-observers through the park, mortally offending a maiden aunt by offering her a seemingly innocent posy of flowers, and accidentally declaring eternal hatred for her fiancé when a speck of dust got into her eye, the beleaguered Victorian lady may have longed to simply lean out of a window and watch the world go by from the peace and security of her home. However, even this act was fraught with meaning. The position in which one held oneself relative to the window and (especially) the way in which one moved one’s hands while at the window cast amorous or scornful judgment upon any who passed. A lady resting with the forefinger of her left hand on her chin informed anyone who happened to glance at her window that she desired an acquaintance, and heaven forfend if she clasped her hands – to do so was to announce her engagement.

Necessary Devices

Victorian flirtation was undeniably complicated and prone to confusion. However, in a world which blushed to hear the word ‘pregnancy’, such subterfuge was necessary. One may even suppose that the element of secrecy added a certain spice to the proceedings which is lacking in the more overt flirtation of modern times. Nonetheless, to our eyes the innumerable Victorian flirt-codes (in addition to the above, hats, scarves, gloves, fans, and even postage stamps to name but a few could convey hidden meanings) seem faintly ridiculous. Having said this, constructing a floral Valentine using the Victorian language of flowers could be a thoughtful, crafty, and romantic way in which to surprise your significant other. Just be sure to choose your blooms carefully…

The Art Of The Gingerbread House by Guest Writer Evelyn Anderson

Gingerbread-House-Photos-51

Perhaps as far back as anyone alive can remember one of the most timeless traditions connected to Christmas has long been that of gingerbread decorations. This sweet and decorative holiday treat was first linked to Christmas by the beginning of the 17th century, when the ban on public production of the product was lifted only during the months of Christmas and Easter. Gingerbread quickly grew popular throughout Europe and spread into America, where it was cut and decorated into Christmas tree ornaments during the Victoria era. However, Christmas-time gingerbread is best known today for either the story of the runaway man made of cookie, or the delicious houses that were first made famous by the Brothers Grimm and their tale of Hansel and Gretel.

While it remains unclear whether or not the decorative abodes were a literary creation or not, what is certain is that for now, the tradition appears to be here to stay. From home-baked and assembled, to creative non-bake ideas from Martha, all the way to premade kits ordered from specialty shops online, making gingerbread houses can be one of the highlights of the season if you love crafts and also have a bit of a sweet tooth. The craft is also one of the best ways to occupy a group of children in the days directly leading up to their anticipation of Santa. Although any of the above ideas can be used to make for a great holiday activity, making your own has always been a bit of tradition around here and can add an extra bit of pride and fun to finished product. If you’re working with adults, it’s a great way to keep yourselves busy on a family holiday over the course of a couple days. If you’re working with kids, its best to get all the prep work out of the way early so they can dive straight into the fun of building.

Creating the Hardware

Just like a real house, the building blocks of any great gingerbread creation have to start from the ground up. This can be done easily in two steps (or in two days if you need the extra time).

The first step is to make the dough. This part can be tweaked and personalized to your taste and according to any family recipes of your own, but our favorite was inspired by the German gingerbread that’s a bit harder than other European varieties, which makes a perfect base for starting a house.

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup plain flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
185g butter, chopped 
1 tbls water
1/2 cup honey
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup pure icing sugar

Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside. Beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy then add in eggs and water until well combined. Slowly add dry ingredients with a wooden spoon, taken extra care to ensure over-mixing doesn’t occur. Freeze for up to an hour for manageability, then roll out on floured surface for shaping.

The second step is to create the patterns. Part of the fun of making your own house is to make the shapes and sizes, as you would like. Perhaps you’d like to make a mini-model of your own house, or maybe the kids would enjoy recreating a fairy-tale village? That’s all part of the fun! However, for beginners, or as a reference for a jumping off point, plenty of patterns are available online to print and glue to hard paper for tracing and cutting.

Bake pieces at 350 °F for 11-15 minutes for large pieces and 6-8 minutes for smaller sets. While still warm, trim the sides with a straight knife to create smooth, workable pieces. Lay aside to cool and dry for up to a day.

Putting it all Together

Finally, using 2 large egg whites and 3 cups of pure icing sugar, beat constantly until thick to create the royal icing; the glue that will keep all the parts of the house together!

Of course, after the hard work, the decorations are the fun part. This is also going to be the part that the kids love best. Prior to gathering them up, stock up on plenty of small chocolates, sugared goodies, and or even nuts and hard candies to make your creation appear as the house of your dreams. Again, each house can be as unique as you want and this is really the time to let the kids tap into their creative minds and play.

Last step: Show it off!

Written and Copyrighted by Eve Pearce