Extracts from Lady Silver’s Advice for Young Ladies
(being assorted ruminations on subjects of interest to young ladies embarking on romantic intrigue)
“The summerhouse serves three functions . It is either a place for trysts, a place for ambushes/attacks or a means of escaping from inclement weather.
Ladies rarely receive proposals in summerhouses – they can expect to recieve indecent (and highly successful) advances. Be prepared to feign indignation at the gentleman’s subsequent assumption that you will be his wife/mistress/cook or nanny. Deny all offers – unless you have been tricked to the summerhouse by a younger family member. If this is the case accept anything.
Be wary of gentlemen who won’t let you near the summerhouse but can’t think of an adequate reason for not visiting it. They are either harbouring spies or conducting illicit affairs with the neighbouring Lord. The later is a certainty if the summerhouse is positioned conveniently close to the border of both estates. No gentleman will take his mistress to a summerhouse – they will have a townhouse and be well known to the housekeeper.
Should your romance have a villian (see note 76) be aware that the summerhouse will most probably be the scene of your abduction or the place where you are held hostage. Do not be tempted to see through the villians poorly forged note in order to avoid this ordeal. The hero requires it in order to realise the depth of his love for you and propose – do remember that this is not the time for acting like the strong woman you normally seem to be. Tears and hysterics are the order of the day.”
“Almacks is the most boring evening you will ever spend.
Many ladies are tempted to avoid it altogether. This is a mistake. Almacks serves two important purposes.
Firstly it maybe where you meet your prospective husband. The key here is to make a beeline for the first man who walks through the door to be greeted to a series of murmurs along the lines of ‘what’s he doing here?, very wild, complete rake, did you hear about his dealings with nun and the cucumber?’ He will be greeted enthusiastically by the hostess and turn out to be an incredibly wealthy lord of good family. Despite appearances and a past so shocking you will never hear about it (this should not stop you from claiming not to care and to understand at every opportunity) he is ideal marriage material. You will be forced to dance the waltz however so ensure you have practiced it.
Secondly Almacks is the place where you will be reconciled to your estranged lover. Despite not wanting to attend you will spend considerable time protesting that every other night you have to go for the good of your poor little cousin. Thus when you become annoyed enough with the hero to bar him from your house and tell your servants to throw old shoes at him he will be able to find you by attending Almacks. Do not be tempted to foil him by not going. It is impossible for him to propose if he can’t see you and you can’t get married without a proposal.”
“Whilst there is nothing more unfortunate than a lady dressed in clothes she has constructed herself from old remnants of her mothers or sisters finery it is nonetheless important that you have sufficient knowledge of dressmaking to be able to make impromptu repairs to ballgowns.
Equally important is the ability to damage gowns in such a way that they appear quite destroyed but can be rectified in under two minutes with a set of three pins.
The reasons for this are quite simple. You cannot drag a gentleman off to a secluded location whilst at a ball without fearing discovery unless it is under the pretext of him helping to repair your dress. Unfortunately few gentleman will be so enterprising as to destroy your dress for you so doing so yourself is a must. Forward thinking young ladies might mention to their dressmaker that they would appreciate a few loose seams.
Beware of any gentleman who does tear your dress. The sort of man who is actively seeking to destroy your clothes at a ball is not the sort of publicly restrained but privately dissolute rake you are seeking. Pouring your drink over such men is the quickest way of dealing with them. Hot punch works especially well as it will hopefully render them sufficiently burnt as to curtail all their future social engagements. Do not be concerned at raising a hue and cry in this situation as it is the quickest way of securing the services of your closest friend or a suitable gentleman. You will be thought a widget for a time and men may avoid you when you are drinking but this maybe for the best.”
“There is no surer sign of your intendeds wealth than his keeping a french mistress. They are the most expensive accessory a man can purchase and should be regard in the same light as racehorses, beautiful, highly strung, and capable of inflicting considerable damage with a well timed kick.
They float through social gatherings in a haze of exotic perfume which makes any man who smells it think of hot steamy nights in bed, an association reinforced by their tendency to wear dresses which contrive to look positively indecent (according to your mother – how this is achieved given a floor length skirt, corsets, crinoline hoops, and undergarments involving more silk than an elephants parachute is a mystery).
You need not worry – while every other man is contemplating selling his house and possibly his soul to sleep with this woman your intended will have eyes only for you. At some point he will make the mistake of telling his mistress this, the ensuing row will cripple him for weeks. French mistresses are adept throwers of crockery, and their ability to hurt the more painful parts of a mans anatomy is legendary. Should you ever be in need of lessons in self defence you should seek instruction from one of them (the fees will be astronomical but the ability to kill a man in five seconds using only a small earring is invaluable).
Unlike the English mistress the french mistress is unlikely to feel any spite towards you – she will soon have found a richer man to take care of her and will probably pity you. This may come as a surprise but when your intended turns out to be bankrupt you will understand why.”