Christy here. What comes to mind when I mention the Victorians? High necklines? Long hemlines? Propriety? Prudery? Actually, the Victorians might just surprise you. Despite their very proper reputation, they weren’t truly the humorless prudes we’ve been led to believe they were. They could be playful and raucous, and they loved entertainment. However, without television, movie theaters, or computers to distract them, they often sought their entertainments at home.
Increased industrialization during the era led to a greater supply of leisure time, and Victorians used this boon to find ways to enjoy themselves. Hosting dinners parties was a popular way to socialize, and after the meal was served, guests would often gather to engage in parlor games. Entire books were devoted to the range and variety of games a hostess might organize in her home.
Beyond offering a playful diversion, such games also allowed ladies and gentlemen to tiptoe (and sometimes lurch right over) the bounds of propriety. In a society where courtship was overly regulated, the freedom to touch, pinch, or even kiss within the rules of a game must have seemed like terribly naughty fun.
In a fabulous volume from the period, The Book of Parlour Games from 1853, I found games like Kissing the Candle-stick, which simply seemed to involve offering a kiss to someone holding a lit candle-stick. The accompanying illustration from the book leaves no doubt about what a romantic opportunity this would present to a young Victorian couple.
Another perennial favorite among parlor games was Blind Man’s Bluff. One guest would be blindfolded and then try to guess the identity of at least one of the other guests, sometimes attempting to discern identities by touching, sitting on the knee or lap of various guests, or by having guests repeat a word.
When writing One Dangerous Desire, I couldn’t resist incorporating a couple of parlor games into the story, and Blind Man’s Bluff was too tempting to resist. Any game that allowed unmarried men and ladies to interact by touching each other to discern identity seemed tailor made for a romance novel.
What do you think? Ready to include a parlor game at your next dinner party?