Literary Links

March/April 1998


Good News and Announcements

Literary Liaisons was named "Site of the Month" by romance writer, Ruth D. Kerce. We were featured for the month of February, 1998. Check out Ruth's site by clicking here!

Literary Liaisons was featured on a romance writing site, "Romance Medley." To visit the Melissa's site, click here!

If you haven't seen the March 1998 issue of Romantic Times, find one now! Cathie Linz mentioned Literary Liaisons in her " Online Romance" column on page 26.

July 30 to August 2--Plan to attend the Romance Writers of America 18th Annual National Conference. This year's conference will be held from July 30 to August 2, 1998 at the Anaheim Hilton & Towers in Anaheim, California. Contact RWA National for more information.


New On Literary Liaisons

There are many new additions to Literary Liaisons. After reading about them below, check them out on the web site.


Literary Liaisons has a new page to help you in your selection process of reference materials. The "Featured Title" page will take a new title every few weeks from the "Researching the Romance" pages, and give an in-depth description of the book. You will find bibliographic information, a scan of the cover, a short synopsis of the book, and the Table of Contents. This page will also include reviews sent in by readers and a direct link to for convenient ordering. You can get to the "Featured Title" page through the Literary Liaisons home page, or our Bookstore's home page.

Authors' Home Pages

Michelle J. Hoppe



The Art of Dress: Clothes and Society 1500-1914 by Jane Ashelford.
La Mode Illustree Fashion Plates in Full Color edited by Florence Leniston.
The Last Days of the Titanic: Photographs and Mementos of the Tragic Maiden Voyage by Edward Eugene O'Donnell and Frank Browne.
The Name Book by Pierre Le Rouzic
Sinking of the Titanic edited by Bruce M. Caplan.
Uncrowned King: The Life of Prince Albert by Stanley Weintraub


Various titles by Henry James

Feature Title

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool
English Women's Clothing in the Nineteenth Century by C. Willett Cunnington

RWA Chapters On-line

East Tennessee Romance Writers
Heart of Texas
Maine Chapter (MERWA)
Outreach International Romance Writers
Peninsula Chapter (Washington State)
Red River Romance Writers
Romance Writers of the Texas Panhandle
Virginia Romance Writers
West Houston RWA

Researching the Romance

American Costume: 1840-1920 by Estelle Ansley Worrell, ISBN#0811701069.
The Art of Dress: Clothes and Society 1500-1914 by Jane Ashelford, ISBN#0810963175.
La Mode Illustree Fashion Plates in Full Color edited by Florence Leniston, ISBN#0486298191.
Handbook of English Costume in the 19th Century by C. Willet Cunnington and Phillis Cunnington. ISBN#0823800806.
Historic Dress In America: 1607-1870 by Elisabeth McClellan
The Last Days of the Titanic: Photographs and Mementos of the Tragic Maiden Voyage by Edward Eugene O'Donnell and Frank Browne. ISBN#1570982015.
The Name Book by Pierre Le Rouzic, ISBN#0963850210.
Sinking of the Titanic edited by Bruce M. Caplan, ISBN#1883697344.
Titanic: An Illustrated History by Don Lynch, ISBN#078688147X.
Uncrowned King: The Life of Prince Albert by Stanley Weintraub, ISBN#0684834863.

Writers' Resources

Britannica's Lives--Over 17,000 brief biographies searchable by date. Find out what celebrities were teenagers in 1835, or adults in 1876.
Castles of Wales--Provides information on over 400 different Welsh castles, with topics ranging from Welsh and medieval history to Castle terminology.
For the Love of Romance--A site for readers and writers of romance, maintained by Ruth D. Kerce, romance writer
Manifest Destiny: American Expansion in the West--A bibliography of Web resources on the history of the American West through the 1800s.
Panoramic Maps 1847-1926--A division of the Library of Congress, this site has panoramic maps of American cities from 1847 through 1926.
Romance Medley--A collection of research sites for romance writers
St. Martin's Press--The web pages for this publisher
Warner Books--Meet the authors who write for Warner, and read about upcoming releases


Feature Article 

Courting the Victorian Woman

By Michelle J. Hoppe

Courtship was considered more a career move than a romantic interlude for young men, as all of a woman's property reverted to him upon marriage. Therefore courting was taken very seriously--by both sides. Men and women were careful not to lead the other on unnecessarily. 

From the time she was young, a woman was groomed for this role in life--dutiful wife and mother. Properly trained, she learned to sing, play piano or guitar, dance and be conversant about light literature of the day. She also learned French and the rules of etiquette as well as the art of conversation and the art of silence. 


Coming out meant a young woman had completed her education and was officially available on the marriage mart. Financial or family circumstances might delay or move up a girl's debut, though typically, she came out when she was seventeen or eighteen. She purchased a new wardrobe for the season, in order to appear her best in public.

A girl was under her mother's wing for the first few years of her social life. She used her mother's visiting cards, or that of another female relative if her mother was dead. This same person usually served as her chaperone, as a single girl was never allowed out of the house by herself, especially in mixed company.

Courtship advanced by gradations, with couples first speaking, then walking out together, and finally keeping company after mutual attraction had been confirmed. But a gentleman had to take care in the early stages of courtship. If he was introduced to a lady at a party for the purpose for dancing, he could not automatically resume their acquaintance on the street. He had to be re-introduced by a mutual friend. And then, only upon permission of the lady.

The lower classes had opportunities to socialize at Sunday Service, Church suppers and holiday balls, while upper classes held their social events throughout the season. The season ran from April to July. Some families arrived in town earlier if Parliament was in session. A typical debutante's day meant she rose at 11a.m. or 12 noon, ate breakfast in her dressing room, attended a concert or drove in the Park, dined at eight, went to the opera, then to three or four parties until 5 a.m--all under the watchful eye of her chaperone.

Great care had to be taken at these public affairs, so as not to offend a possible suitor or his family. Following are some rules of conduct a proper female must adhere to:

A woman was allowed some liberties, however. She could flirt with her fan, as this behavior was within the protocol of accepted behavior. Here are what different signals meant:

Fan fast--I am independent
Fan slow--I am engaged
Fan with right hand in front of face--Come on
Fan with left hand in front of face--Leave me
Fan open and shut--Kiss me
Fan open wide--Love
Fan half open--Friendship
Fan shut--Hate
Fan swinging--Can I see you home?


By the end of the season, many relationships had been cemented, with an eye to the future. Thus began the serious chase, with marriage the ultimate goal.

There was a camaraderie among upper class women. They advised, gossiped, told secrets and wrote passionate letters to each other. They were the chief arrangers of social affairs, but woe to anyone who made an enemy of them, as they could be ostracized forever from society. When a young girl was on good terms with these social select, she could expect help in making an advantageous match.

There were rules to follow even here, however. Until 1823, the legal age in England for marriage was 21 years--for men and women. After 1823, a male could marry as young as fourteen without parental consent, and a girl at 12. Most girls, however, married between the ages of 18 and 23, especially in the upper classes.

It was also illegal to marry a deceased wife's sister. But you could marry first cousins. The attitude toward first-cousin marriages changed by the end of the century, however.

Marriage was encouraged only within one's class. To aspire higher, one was considered an upstart. To marry someone of lesser social standing was considered marrying beneath oneself.

In upper class marriages, the wife often brought with a generous dowry--an enticement for marriage. The financial aspects of a marriage were openly discussed, much like the pre-nuptial agreements of today. Both parties disclosed their fortunes. A man had to prove his worth in keeping his wife in the level of life she was accustomed. A woman, often looking to improve her social standing, used a dowry as a lure. To protect an heiress, her family could set up an estate trust for her, which would be controlled by Chancery Court. The woman would have access to this property if she applied, but her husband could not touch it.

An unmarried woman of 21 could inherit and administer her own property. Even her father had no power over it. Once she married, however, all possessions reverted to her husband. She couldn't even make a will for her personal property, while a husband could will his wife's property to his illegitimate children. Therefore, marriage, although her aim in life, had to be very carefully contemplated.

Because many marriages were considered a business deal, few started with love. Although as the years passed, many couples grew tolerably fond of each other, often resulting in a bond almost as deep as love.


The bank accounts have been studied, the ancestral lineages inspected, and political connections explored. If both parties passed muster, the next step toward marriage was the engagement.

If it had not already been done, the man was introduced to girl's parents and her peer group. Permission for asking for the daughter's hand in marriage had to be granted by bride's father, although the gentleman could wait until he had his bride's consent before asking.

A proposal was best made in person, with clear, distinct language, so the girl might not misunderstand the gentleman's intent. If he could not bring himself to propose in person, he could do so in writing. A girl did not have to accept her first proposal. She could play coy.

A short time was allowed to elapse before an engagement was announced, except to the most intimate friends/family of both parties. This was a precaution, lest the engagement be ended by either party.

The mother hosted a dinner party once the engagement was announced. The purpose of this dinner was to introduce the fiancé to his bride's family. A more formal evening party may have followed. Once the groom had been introduced to bride's family, the bride was then introduced to his. This could be a very trying time for a young girl, as a mother-in-law's eye was often critical.

After the engagement was announced to the family, the bride wrote to the rest of her friends with the news. At the same time, her mother wrote to the elders of these families. Engagements lasted from six months to two years depending upon ages and circumstances.

The engagement was finalized with a ring. The size and stone depended upon the groom's finances. They could be in the form of a love knot, a simple band, or a band embedded with different stones whose initials spelled out a name or word of love. For example, the Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, gave Princess Alexandra of Denmark a 'gypsy ring' with the stones Beryl, Emerald, Ruby, Turquoise, Iacynth and Emerald, to spell out his nickname, "Bertie."

A woman could, in turn, give her fiancé a ring, although it was not required.

The couple could become a bit more intimate once they were engaged. They could stroll out alone, hold hands in public, and take unchaperoned rides. A hand around the waist, a chaste kiss, a pressing of the hand, were allowed. They could also visit alone behind closed doors. But they had to be dutifully separated by nightfall, or overnight at country parties. Thus, if the engagement was broken, the girl suffered the consequences of a ruined reputation because of her previous behavior. An honorable man never broke an engagement, so as not to cause the girl discomfiture.

Unfortunately, some engagements did end, with resulting embarrassment and possibly even legal action should it be terminated by one party over the protest of the other. A "breach of promise" suit might result in one party paying for the other's damages, such as cost of a wedding gown and trousseau. This was one reason news of the betrothal was often kept from family and friends. It wasn't considered official, and therefore would not hold up in court. Women were even cautioned as to what they wrote in letters and journals, should the case go that far.

As callous as all this sounds, there was true romance and love during the Victorian era. Why else did samples of heart-rending verses and flowery cards last through the ages for us to ponder and dream over? Perhaps it was these very constraints and rules that made true love all the more special to those who found it. For lucky were the ones who found love within their class, and within the approval of their families. Yet even those marriages that did not begin with love, often ended in a deep, endearing attachment that would be envied by many.


Editor's Note

With March and April comes the spring thaw for many of us. It is a time for that first crocus to pop out through the late-season snow, for robins to return to their nesting grounds, for geese to pair off and seek seclusion. It is a time for new beginnings. For nature that means new lives and re-birth. For writers, it means more temptations to pull us away from our writing. But that could be a good thing, for what writer hasn't been inspired by the sight of magnolia buds swelling to life, or the pink and orange glow of a perfect sunset? Nature is inspiration, no matter what the season, but the spring in particular. For like the earth, we as writers create and begin anew with each venture we undertake. And like nature, some of those projects will deteriorate and fall to the wayside, while others will feed and bloom and thrive. It is up to us as the writer to decide which projects will succeed. Only we can control whether that manuscript gets written, or that query goes out, or that follow-up phone call gets made. We have not only been given our talent, we have been given the wisdom to do something with it. Use this spring to blossom that talent, to direct, or perhaps re-focus your efforts. Because only you can make yourself a success.


FAQ Column

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Historical Calendar of Events


August 9--The Webster-Ashburton Treaty between Great Britain and the U.S. defines the Canadian border.

August 29--The Treaty of Nanking ends the Opium War between Britain and China and confirms cession of Hong Kong to Great Britain.

Riots and strikes take place in the industrial areas in Northern England.

Marquis Wellesley, British statesman and Governor of India, dies.

The Orange Free State is set up by the Boers.

The Oregon Trail mapped by U.S. Army lieutenant John Charles Frémont, 29, will take thousands of emigrants westward.

A wagon train of 120 people led by physician Elijah White, 36, is the first large-scale emigration to Oregon Territory.

John Banim, Irish poet and playwright, dies.

Charles Dickens publishes "American Notes".

American author Washington Irving is appointed U.S. ambassador to Spain.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow publishes "Poems of Slavery".

Edgar Allan Poe publishes "The Masque of the Red Death" in the May Graham's Magazine which sacks Poe for drunkenness.

"The Mystery of Marie Roget" by Edgar Allan Poe begins in the November Snowden's Ladies Companion.

Thomas Arnold, English educator and headmaster of Rugby, dies.

The University of Notre Dame is founded in Notre Dame, Indiana.

Villanova University is founded in Villanova, Pennsylvania.

John Fiske, American historian, born.

John S. Cotman, English landscape painter, dies.

Joseph Hopkinson, American lawyer who wrote "Hail Columbia" dies.

The New York Philharmonic Society is founded by violinist Ureli C. Hill and other American musicians.

Sir Arthur Sullivan, English composer, born.

Sir Charles Bell, Scottish anatomist, dies.

Sir James Dewar, Scottish chemist, born.

The first photograph is printed in a newspaper in London.

The Illustrated London News begins publication in May.

September 18--The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette begins publication.

American physician Crawford W. Long uses ether to produce surgical anesthesia.

New York gets its first shipment of milk by rail as the Erie Railroad line is completed to Goshen in Orange County.

Starch is produced from corn for the first time at Jersey City, New Jersey.

The Royal Commission of Mines discovers that women are made to pull the coal trucks on hands and feet, and children as young as five years work alone in the darkness.

Britain's Mines Act takes effect, prohibiting employment in mines of women, girls, and boys under age 10.

Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population of Great Britain by English sanitary reformer Edwin Chadwick, 42, exposes the squalor of the nation's milltown slums in a report by the Poor Law commissioners. The report shows that working people have a much higher incidence of disease than do the middle and upper classes.

Massachusetts enacts a child labor law that limits the working hours of children under 12 to 10 per day.

Grace Darling, English heroine who saved nine people from a shipwreck, dies.

The polka, a lively dance of Czech origin, comes into fashion.

Gimbels department stores have their beginnings in a Vincennes, Ind., trading post opened by Bavarian-American peddler Adam Gimbel, 26, who has acquired a 2.5-story frame house from a local dentist.

Boston and Albany are connected by railway.

Queen Victoria makes her first railroad journey, from Windsor to Paddington, London.

May 8-- The Paris-Versailles train pulled by two locomotives jumps the track and catches fire. Casualties exceed 100 persons.

May 5 to 7--Hamburg, Germany is largely destroyed by a fire that in 100 hours ravages 4,219 buildings including 2,000 dwellings. Property damage amounts to 7 million, 100 are killed, 20 percent of the city is left homeless.

Ireland is losing some 60,000 per year to emigration

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