What a lovely discussion this week in the first ever meeting of the Young Bluestockings Book Club! Bethany set the mood appropriately. Yes, indeed, my dear, a book club is exactly the place to natter on about your favorite books. I’m so glad you, and Rachel, and QnPoohBear, and Sylvia, and ChaChaneen, and Tricia did just that! Heavens, Amy admitted she hadn’t read the book yet, but that didn’t stop her from posting! I hope the rest of you (I can hear you breathing!) feel more comfortable joining us next time.
And what about next time, you ask? Marissa and I are pleased to announce that when the Young Bluestockings next meet, on April 23, we will be discussing Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy by L.A. Meyer. As a plague wracks London, Mary can only pray for a way to escape. But after her gang's leader is killed, she dons his clothing, trading in the name Mary for Jack, and takes to the high seas aboard HMS Dolphin. What follows is a rollicking adventure, complete with pirates, sea battles, and romance.
Right off the bat, you’ll notice a similarity between Mary and Kim, the heroine of Mairelon the Magician. Like Kim, Mary knew there were benefits from pretending to be a boy in the early nineteenth century. Why?
A girl’s life was fairly constrained. We’ve talked about some of the outstanding examples of women, such as Caroline Herschel, Eleanor Coade, and Mary Anning, who rose above what was expected. But the lives of most young ladies were sketched on a much smaller canvas. Mairelon the Magician outlines several choices:
You could be work behind the scenes, doing your part to help your family advance in wealth or station. For a lower class young lady, this might mean working the land or helping in the family’s shop. For an aristocratic young lady, it generally meant marrying well, being a good hostess to help her husband’s political career, and avoiding scandal (hey, two out of three isn’t bad, Lady Granleigh).
You could be charming and sweet and swoon at the least sight of trouble so the young men felt appropriately manly. This was supposed to guarantee you a good husband who would treat you in the style to which you would like be become accustomed (although I’m not sure you made the best choice, Miss Marianne Thornley).
You could be savvy and dashing, look the fellows in the eye, and make your own way in the world. Note that you generally needed money or some form of income to do this (and income often meant taking money for favors to gentlemen). Even if you were an heiress, a young lady living this way was often thought to be somewhat scandalous (I’m looking at you, Rene D’Uber).
Or you could pretend you weren’t a girl and the rules for girls didn’t apply to you, like Kim and Jacky. I’ll talk more about a real nineteenth century young lady who thought the rules didn’t apply to her next week when we continue our series on nineteenth century heroines.
I’d like to think I’d be more like Rene D’Uber, with a flair and a mind (and inherited, not earned-the-hard-way money) of my own. But I suspect I’d be more likely to fall into Marianne Thornley’s camp. I’m terribly good at batting my lashes, and I tend to go weak at the knees at the first sign of chivalry.
What about you?