One of the indirect pleasures of writing about the nineteenth century is collecting 19th century stuff in the name of research, which allows one to feel noble and virtuous (“I’m working hard to bring a truly authentic feel to my stories by buying these!”) I would imagine writers of chick-lit do the same thing with shoes...but I do hope crime writers don’t do the same with murder weapons.
Fortunately, 19th century fashion plates—pictures of current fashions that appeared in 19th century magazines before the advent of Vogue and four-color photo advertisements—are generally much cheaper than Manolos or Jimmy Choos and less alarming than pistols and daggers, so we writers of historical fiction can indulge in owning more than one. I love my collection, and enjoy looking at them as much for the sheer fun of it as for research purposes. Many of them are works of art—delicately drawn and colored, charming, evocative of the world of the past in so many ways.
But some of them, while still attractive and informative and all that, make me just itch to grab a pencil and scribble in a thought bubble or silly caption—the original engraver included some quirk of expression or setting or outlandish detail that just screams for it. So now and then I’ll be posting a few with my thoughts for captions, just for fun. Here are a few to start us off; if you have your own funny caption for any of them, tell us what it is in the comment section. Later this spring I’ll post a few without captions to see what you can do, and maybe hand out a prize or two…so have fun, and enjoy the prints!
#1, from a French Modes de Paris print from around 1827:
"Isn't it wonderful? When I'm not using it to vacuum the rugs, it makes a fabulous fashion statement!
#2, from the English Ackermann's Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, March 1810:
"A peculiar fishy odor? I have no idea what you're talking about!"
#3, also from Ackermann's Repository, July 1822:
"Oh, darn! It's decaf?"
And lastly, #4, from another English magazine called La Belle Assemblee, January 1826:
"Hey, lady--give those back! They're mine!"
Isn't it wonderful how pets and their owners begin to resemble each other after a while?
Which do you prefer?