Welcome to the weekend, 18th-centuryists! Do you find yourself swooning, and it’s not just from your corset? Do you feel like spending all day running through the meadows and reading love poems, just like Marianne Dashwood before a fall? Then you might be under the spell of Valentine’s Day.
Not sure who your valentine should be? Over at the John Hopkins University Press blog, Janine Barchas is celebrating with heartthrobs and pinup picks for Jane Austen’s characters.
In the 18th century, you could profess your love by pinning a slip of paper with your sweetheart’s name onto your clothes, leading to the idiom, “wear your heart on your sleeve.”
Of course, you could always get him or her a Founding Fathers valentine, from Publius Esquire:
Want to be a little more generous? Head over to Making History Now for an amazing 18th century-inspired Valentine’s gift guide. I would definitely commit improprieties if my boyfriend got me that Marquis de Lafayette necklace over shrub glass cocktails…
Regardless of how you celebrate or whom you celebrate with (or if you celebrate at all!), here are some sweet words from 1784 to wish you a happy weekend:
The rose is red, the violet’s blue
The honey’s sweet, and so are you
Thou are my love and I am thine
I drew thee to my Valentine
The lot was cast and then I drew
And Fortune said it shou’d be you.
Addison speaking on women’s weakness for dress, in Tatler issue 151 (1710):
“Many a lady has fetched a sigh at the toss of a wig, and been ruin’d by the tapping of a snuff-box. It is impossible to describe all the execution that was done by the shoulder-knot where that fashion prevailed, or to reckon up all the virgins that have fallen a sacrifice to a pair of fringed gloves. A sincere heart has not made half so many conquests as an open wa[i]stcoat . . .”
YESSS. Also, if you don’t know, dandies and fops loved snuff-boxes and writers loved giving them shit about it. Speaking of fops, here’s fop-rocker/New-Waver Adam Ant, singing about the life of a dandy highwayman while being incredibly swoon-worthy:
At Lady Anne Percival’s, Belinda meets Mr. Vincent, who is a sexy Creole. You can’t have sexy Creoles, Maria Edgeworth! They’re supposed to be lecherous and effeminate and alcoholic gamblers and tainted by their sexual relations with their slaves in the luxurious and immoral West Indies and also racialized, even though they’re also supposed to be artless and hospitable and btw making lots of monies too! It’s not me saying this, um, obviously. But instead he’s all super-sexy. Like, way sexier than Mr. Darcy.
Okay, so pretty early on, Belinda discovers at a masquerade that all the men think she’s a coquette trained by her aunt to snag a rich husband. Embarrassing. Then things start getting awesome. She begins to realize that Lady Delacour is unhappy, and Lady D admits she’s dying; she promises to give Belinda her history, or “The Life and Opinions of a Lady of Quality, related by Herself” (and how great is that? Edgeworth is on fire with this metatextuality shit), but first takes her upstairs to “the mysterious cabinet”:
“She then, with a species of fury, wiped the paint from her face, and returning to Belinda, held the candle so as to throw the light full upon her livid features. Her eyes were sunk, her cheeks hollow—no trace of youth or beauty remained on her deathlike countenance, which formed a horrid contrast with her gay fantastic dress. ‘You are shocked, Belinda,’ said she, but as yet you have seen nothing—look here—‘ and baring one half of her bosom, she revealed a hideous spectacle.”
Say what you want about this novel (it’s cool; Maria Edgeworth’s totally dead, she won’t mind), but Belinda has 100% more Gothic tits than any other book you’ll read this week.