A few weeks ago a friend of mine handed me a book that she thought would amuse me. The title of the book is a bit indelicate for the Ballroom, so I’ll just link to the book here. I had read He’s Just Not That Into You, I’ve heard about The Rules… I’ve even watched that awesome movie––If A Man Answers with Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin based on Winifred Wolfe’s novel––in which the girl uses a guidebook on how to train a dog to train the guy she wants.
Apparently a 2008 book thought this was a new idea… http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/23127234/ns/today-relationships/t/done-right-even-your-man-can-learn-new-tricks/ In fact, if you search “how to train a man like a dog/pet/animal”, there are numerous books on this topic!
But where did our Regency heroines go for advice on love, marriage and courtship? (And for that matter, where did our heroes go? –but saving that for another day!)
If Mr. Collins of Pride and Prejudice were to believed, it would be James Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women, a text peppered with lines such as: “…I would exhort and enjoin Christian women, always to dress with decency and moderation; never to go beyond their circumstances, nor aspire above their station…”
Of course, Fordyce’s Sermons is more of a conduct book than a courtship book.
At the beginning of the 18th century, a Mrs. Manley started the Female Tatler. In that gossip sheet, “Mrs. Crackenthorpe, A Lady that knows everything’, thought to be Manley’s alias, gave advice on public conduct. According the fascinating book, Scandal, by Roger Wilkes, Mrs. Manley was the one who noted that many women were then dressing as men and sneaking into men-only establishments. (Shakespeare and romance novelists––equally inspired by true life!) While the Female Tatler was short lived, the idea of advice columns most definitely has lived on.
As an example, we may turn to our own Miss MacLean’s matrimonial advice column, “Lessons for Landing a Lord”, from her novel 10 Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord. There heroines gain such excellent pearls of wisdom as, “Knowledge of his schedule is the very best tool for ensnaring a true gentleman.” (So true!)
But what about advice specifically for the Regency romance heroine? For all those unusual situations in which she finds herself, whether living in a female-dominated cove, dealing with a pirate or gallivanting across the country with barely any clothing and an amnesiac hero?
Yes, what then?
How does she handle the lord who seduces her as revenge for her brother’s/father’s/neighbour-twice-removed’s actions?
How should she respond when her careless and cruel father/brother/mother/guardian has just lost her in a card game?
Just what should a virginal and innocent (not always the same thing) young lady do when, after accepting help from a kind old woman who runs a home for young women, she’s mistaken for a courtesan?
And heavens forbid, what if a young lady is at a house party, and has been mistakenly compromised?
Or… in the case of a certain couple near and dear to me, how should a lady of dubious repute proceed if she’s been hired to seduce a handsome injured man who has locked himself far, far away in a crumbling castle…and she’s in danger of losing her heart?
I think we need to create a new advice list today for our special Regency heroines and heroes.
Lady B has promised to stop by a bit later with her contribution. In the meantime, dear Ballroom denizens, what are yours?