When I think of autumn and the Regency, I think of harvest fairs and harvest balls, brisk October winds, and lots of apples. But did you know that bobbing for apples was another of those romantic games where future romance was predicted? I didn’t, until I read this entertaining and thorough article about the origins of Halloween. Apparently, one variation was played the same way as it is now, except that names were carved into the apples so that whichever name was on the apple you seized was that of your future true love. Fortunately, the variation called “Snap-apple,” where a player had to seize the apple while it swung around on a pole with a burning candle at the other end of the pole, died out, or we’d not be enjoying trying to grab those apples quite so much!
Although the word “jigsaw” didn’t exist before the jig saw was invented in the late Victorian age, such puzzles did exist, cut out with marquetry saws. They were called “dissected maps.” Apparently, puzzles go back to the 1700’s, when they were primarily maps cut along the borders of the countries/counties, etc. You can see an example of two on my Pinterest page. I even saw them mentioned in a period account as a popular gift for loved ones on Valentine’s Day!
Peep show boxes, otherwise known as Raree Shows, were a Regency form of entertainment typically meant for children. So I cheated a bit in Married to the Viscount by creating naughty ones. Or did I? I figured that since erotic material and images have been around since humans began recording such things, surely someone had created a naughty one. But in general, they were meant as amusements for people at fairs and such. A showman would use patter to describe the scenes as the viewers of all ages watched a progression of images go past on the “screen,” usually a painted backdrop that was moved or otherwise manipulated. I came up with the idea for including peep show boxes in my book when I saw two examples at a New York Public Library exhibit while I was on vacation. Yes, I am always looking out for stuff to use in my fiction.
The Regency folks loved to party, too. And play party games. There was Bullet Pudding, which was essentially the same as Bobbing for Apples, except that players bobbed in a bowl of flour for a bullet. Yes, a real bullet. Those crazy kids! The fun was in seeing people end up covered in flour. And let’s not forget Blind Man’s Buff, in one version of which the blindfolded person tried to guess the identity of another by “feeling” their face. THAT one almost sounds scandalous!
They also played snapdragon, a crazy game where partygoers fished raisins out of a bowl of burning brandy. It actually dates back to Shakespeare’s time. It’s not as dangerous as it sounds, though. They used shallow bowls to make it easy to snatch the raisins and although the low blue flame seemed to put off lots of heat, the fire wasn’t deep and the brandy wasn’t that hot (I know because I’ve tried it). Our ancestors found it so entertaining that they even had a song to go with it.