The London Season

The Murder of Mary Russell not only dips into the past, it dips into other worlds from that of Mary Russell in the early 20th century.  For example, the social whirl that is The Season:

The Season, when the Names and would-be Names of the British Empire would gather in London, ran from midwinter until midsummer— which in this turned-around northern hemisphere was December through June. Parliament was in session then, but politics was only the excuse for an endless series of coming-out balls, intimate dinners for thirty, afternoon salons, improving lectures, and charity events that benefitted the sorts of people one hoped never actually to lay eyes upon. Once the hunting season ended in the spring, the whirl would really get under way.

…the lesser hunting season, that is, when the prey had feathers or fur—The Season’s truly important game came dressed in silk hat and gold watch.1870-London-season-cartoon

Yes, The Season was all about matching up the newest generation of young women, allowing them to see and be seen (although rarely to interact for longer than a waltz), that they might announce their intentions, if not an actual engagement, by Christmas. Fathers went into debt, mothers developed ulcers, satirical newspapers had a field day, and the seamstresses of London worked round the clock.

In the Victorian era, rich Americans—the very definition of nouveau riche—got into the act, with society matrons vying to place their daughters before British aristocrats with more blue in their blood than gold in their coffers. Consuelo Vanderbilt’s mother landed the prize fish, the Duke of Marlborough, although she had to bully her otherwise amiable daughter into accepting it. The match was decidedly less amicable than Downton Abbey’s Cora Crawley, and ended soon after Consuelo had produced what she herself referred to as the heir and the spare (who, please note, is even further from the center than the family dog.)439px-Duke_Marlborough_Singer_Sargent-366x500

A young woman, having been presented at the Palace, was given a year amongst the giddy social whirl, or at the most two, before she began to carry around her an air of unsold fish. After a second Season with no engagement, her stock in the marriage market fell rapidly. Her parents might even begin to consider launching her off to India with the “fishing fleet,” where the smaller number of young men made a match—any match—more likely.

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The Murder of Mary Russell, which publishes April 5, may be pre-ordered as:

A signed US hardback from Bookshop Santa Cruz or Poisoned Pen Books

An unsigned hardback or ebook from B&N/Nook or Amazon/Kindle

A UK hardback from Heffer’s/Blackwell’s or hard/ebook from Amazon UK.

Comments

  1. Merrily Taylor says:

    Glamorous as all that seems to us today (particularly to us fans of historical fiction), I wouldn’t have wanted to have been born a woman in that period – so few options (and that’s without even considering the corsets).

  2. Cincoflex says:

    Reminds me of the old Nursery Rhyme: To market, to market!

  3. Diane Hendricksen says:

    Sad lot in life that a girl grew up to become a woman whose only worth was the husband she snared. So glad I didn’t live then.

  4. As I’ve been reading Georgette Heyer for many, many years, I’m familiar with all of this. SO thankful that it’s not going on now, at least at my decidedly non-debutante level of society.

  5. Jan Clemson says:

    The waltz must still have been a bit borderline in terms of acceptability. Not sure of the time when nice young girls were permitted to be clasped so closely rather than touch ing hands in the dances in long sets. This issue comes up in Heyer too.

    • Laurie King says:

      I think by the latter half of the 19th century, the waltz was pretty generally accepted, although young people have always been able to push the limits of “acceptable”…

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