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A Halloween Tea Party for Unmarried Victorian Ladies

I found this from Mimi Matthews, and I found it fascinating, so I’m glad to say Mimi has permitted me to share it here, pictures and all.  If this stuff interests you, recommend following Mimi, and I have to say I was also connected to this particular story because one of her sources is also a ‘local’ paper to me.

Guest blog from Mimi Matthews:

Ladies Taking Tea by Joseph Scheurenberg, n.d.

In the Victorian era, Halloween parties were rife with games designed to help young ladies see into their marital futures. These games were generally played at co-ed Halloween celebrations. There were even some which could be played by gentlemen. The bulk of these games, however, were geared toward marriage-minded females. It is therefore not surprising to find descriptions of Halloween parties—or Halloween Teas—that were strictly for women.

The November 5, 1898 edition of the Western Mail describes a Halloween tea held by a young lady by the name of Anna Leighton. Miss Leighton is reported to have invited sixteen of her female friends to “an early candlelight tea.” The guests arrived to find the Leighton’s parlor decorated with autumn leaves, fruits, nuts, and ears of corn. There were jack-o-lanterns arrayed on the mantel and candles burning under crepe paper shades. As the article relates:

“The decorations of the dining-room were unusually pretty, the walls being draped in soft red and yellow, with wreaths and garlands of autumn flowers and leaves gracefully festooned on the wall, and from each corner were suspended Jack-o’-lanterns cut from immense pumpkins.”

Wax candles illuminated the table and, beside every place setting, there was a cluster of red and yellow roses tied with ribbons and accented with a “silver horsehoe stick-pin” that could be taken home as a souvenir. In addition, attached to each set of roses, was a hand-painted card which revealed the respective guest’s fortune. The Western Mail reports that one such card was drawn with four-leaf clovers and read:

“The man you’ll marry is full of pluck;
He has gone to Klondyke and had good luck.”

Teatime by Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta, n.d.
(Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana)

In keeping with the holiday theme, the menu for the Halloween tea consisted primarily of “nuts, fruit, and candy.” The guests were also served “fancy cakes” and ices which contained “either a needle, thimble, dime, or ring.” According to the Western Mail:

“The needle and thimble indicated that the ones who happened to take them would remain spinsters for another year; the dime and ring meant either an engagement or marriage.”

There were other chances for young ladies to divine their romantic futures, many of which revolved around cups of tea. For example, to find out how many years she might have to wait until she married, a young lady balanced a dry spoon on the edge of her teacup. A second spoon was filled with tea and “holding it above the balanced spoon,” she slowly dropped the tea into the first spoon until it overbalanced. Each drop represented a year.

Another tea-related marriage game was said to reveal how soon one’s lover might call. As the Western Mail explains:

“If a tea stalk floats in the cup it is called a lover, and when this is seen maids should stir their tea very rapidly round and round, and then hold the spoon upright in the centre of the cup. If the tea stalk is attached to the spoon and clings to it he will call shortly, and maybe, this very evening; if the tea stalk goes to the side of the cup he will not come, and you will not have a proposal this year.”

After an evening of tea drinking and marriage forecasting, the young ladies at Miss Leighton’s party gathered around a coal fire and roasted marshmallows. They then told ghost stories. The young lady who told the scariest story was awarded a prize consisting of a pair of toy slippers accompanied by a card which read:

“Before retiring to-night,
Place your slippers in the form of a T.
And to-night you, your love will see;
The colour of his hair and the suit he will wear
The night he is wedding to thee.”

Tea Party by Louis Charles Moeller, 1905.

Though I’m not a fan of the endless games of marriage forecasting, I confess that the idea of a Halloween tea party for ladies does sound appealing. I hope some of you might consider reviving the tradition. Who knows? If we all take part, one day Gallowen might even become popular enough to rival Galentine’s Day.

*Author’s Note: If you’d like to learn more about Victorian Halloween parties or Victorian tea parties, please see these articles from my archives:

A Victorian Halloween Party
An Informal Afternoon Tea

Mimi Matthews is the author of  The Pug Who Bit NapoleonA Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, and The Lost Letter. She researches and writes on all aspects of nineteenth century history—from animals, art, and etiquette to fashion, beauty, feminism, and law. 

Sources

Beard, Linda. How to Amuse Yourself and Others. New York: Scribner & Sons, 1893.

Chambers, Robert. Ed. The Book of Days. London: W. R. Chambers, 1832.

Ingalls’ Home and Art Magazine,Vol. IV. Lynn, Mass: J. F. Ingalls, 1891.

Leslie, Frank. Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, Vol. 40. New York: Frank Leslie Publishing, 1895.

Western Mail (Glamorgan, Wales), 05 November 1898. © British Library Board.


Thanks again to Mimi for allowing me to share and to you for reading this.

 

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Busy, Busy, Busy

I’ve been very quiet on the blogging front of late, but that’s mostly because I’ve been flat out in other respects.

Thought June I was working frantically to get “Echoes of Aether”, which has turned out very well for me.  I’m loving writing this series and it is being well received.  I had a lovely review from Never Was Magazine.

Through July I was away for a week on a training course for work.  Intense, but useful.  I was also desperately trying to organise several talks in South Wales for Dr Noirs Travelling Crime Show.  If you’re interested, here are the dates:

Date Venue Authors Time
24/10/2018 Octavos,
West Bute Street,
Cardiff,
CF10 5LJ
Micheal J Malone,
Matt Johnson,
Quentin Bates,
Rosie Claverton
7pm
25/10/2018 Waterstones
The Old Carlton Cinema,
17 Oxford St,
Swansea
SA1 3AG
Micheal J Malone,
Matt Johnson,
Quentin Bates,
GB Williams
7pm
26/10/2018 Theatr Mwldan,
Bath House Road,
Cardigan
SA43 1JY
Micheal J Malone,
Matt Johnson,
Alis Hawkins
7pm

 

Then there were the events to attend.

In July there was Harrogate, which was fun though I used it more as a weekend off than as a writers festival, mostly because I was shattered.  We found some lovely eateries in Harrogate, can whole-heartedly recommend Major Toms.

Asylum outfit

Then there was all the sewing that I had to do for my costume for the Asylum Steampunk Festival.  I haven’t fired up a sewing machine in a very long time and it took me a while, but I got it all done.  And then, of course, there was Asylum itself.  A wonderful weekend, four talks, four days of trading, and the best news of all, I did so well with the sales, I sold out of two titles.  I’ve had to quickly order more as I still have three events in September and four more in October to do.

Now I have to go, more writing to do.

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Echoes of Aether – Cover Reveal

Well, here it is, the wonderful cover for Echoes of Aether. Love that the wonderful guys at Deranged Doctor Designs have done, this is such a stunning design:

2017-1185 Gail Williams B02

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The Short, The Heard and The Words

I swear it was only May last time I looked, now it’s July, so come on, who stole June?

Through May I was manic with events: Llandeilo, Newcastle and Crimefest, but June has just disappeared.

June was supposed to be a rest and relax month, which it has and hasn’t been. I was away from home for two weeks of the month.  The first week I was away, we were off in our new campervan – which was fabulous! Can’t wait to do more of that.

We were in West Wales, so internet was patchy and we were so busy doing stuff I didn’t have much time for writing.  I did some, but a holiday is supposed to be a holiday from all the usual things. Though I have to say, some of the visits were to places that will be appearing in my next novel. Came back from that feeling human again.  The second week was actually me going away on my own for a training course – day-job related.  It was intense and valuable and was been the kick in the pants I needed to get my head on straight for the day-job again.

But somehow within all of that I have managed to;

  • write a ‘short’ story – max word count of 8K, mine is 11K, so some editing to do there;
  • get invited to write an audio play – that’s still at the earliest stages so I’ll keep the rest to myself for a minute – it’s a 2019 project so you’ll hear more then;
  • start my latest crime novel;
  • do some polishing on an existing novel;
  • finish the edit on my second steampunk book, Echoes of Aether.

I’m quite happy about that.

Echoes of Aether is the next adventure in the life of Miss Amethyst Forester as she navigates the fortunes and misfortunes of Victorian London high society and the perils of politics which would destabilise that world as she’s coming to know it.

I’ll reveal the amazing cover art from Deranged Doctor Designs on July 12th.

cover reveal 01

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I am a Sick Bunny

CrimeFest

Yes – it’s official I am a “Sick Bunny”, will explain later.

I spent last weekend (17 – 20 May 2018) at Crimefest, had a great time, as ever. Caught up with lots of old friends, made some new ones.  Listening to the panels, I’ve picked up some great tips for future novels – and the current work in progress.

I’ve attended a few Crimefests now and never managed to get on the Forensics Excursion, but this year a note went out last minute to say that two tickets had come available, and I was lucky enough to be one of those that snagged one.  It was brilliant.  A great way to look at ‘crime scenes’ and see how they worked. At last now, I understand the priority order how things are numbered for photographs etc. at crime scenes.  Makes so much sense now (the lower the number the more vulnerable the evidence). Will definitely be using what I learned, and it was well worth giving up a lie in to leave the house at 0630 in order to be sure to be there.

Thoroughly enjoyed loads of panels. Would pick out a couple, The “Debut Authors” on Friday with Emily Elgar, Caroline England, Chris McGeorge, Elizabeth Mundy, Robert Scragg.  Meet Robert at Newcastle Noir and he’s one to watch.  Another highlight was the “Bloody Scotland” panel; Lesley Kelly, Douglas Lindsay, Caro Ramsey and Tana Collins, who I’ve blogged about before. My last of the weekend sent me out on a high, that was the “Give Me A Break” panel on Sunday – will be reading books from Oliver Bottini and Alis Hawkins.

It was also lovely to see so many members of Crime Cymru, at the event, and many of them on panels (including Cathy Ace, Rosie Claverton, Alis Hawkins)

Well as you may well know, there’s always Gala Dinner at Crimefest, and I attended this year. The organisers do give delegates the chance to say who they would like to sit with, but this year I decided to take the role of the dice and ask nothing, just see where I got placed.  I was fortunate because I ended up on a table with Kat Hall, Sarah Ward, Oliver Bottini (German Author recently translated into English), Katharina Bielenberg of Maclehose Press.  Even though there was a lot of German spoken (of which my limit is about sprichst du Englisch?), but these were lovely, interesting and inclusive people, I had a great evening.

So why am I a sick bunny?

One of the other people at the table was David Hicks, of The Book Trade Charity.  I’d met David in London in March and we’d spoken, and I’ve given him a copy of my short story collection Last Cast Casebook. I never really expected to hear from his again, let alone bump into him, but I did and he told me that he’d read the collection, and I am a sick bunny. I think that means he enjoyed it, even if some of the stories made for uncomfortable reading – and that means I did my job right.  Woohoo!

So, there you go.  Crimefest was fantastic and I am confirmed a sick bunny.

 

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Newcastle Noir 2018

20180503_203849Phew! Am finally recovered, this blog will give you some idea of why.

Well, last weekend was Newcastle Noir 2018, and it was fabulous!  It’s a long old drive up from South Wales to Newcastle, but after a trip to the dentist for me, we set off at lunchtime and only took seven and a half hours to get there.  Was rather pooped by the time we did.

We had a wander around the city that evening – after that long in a car we needed to stretch our legs, and while I’d made sure we weren’t staying too far from the venue, I wasn’t really ready for the number of steps up from the Quayside to the Lit and Phil of the venue (where I took the picture above).  Am going to need to get in shape for next year!

I have to say I didn’t know what to expect from Newcastle, because I’ve never been there before, but I wasn’t expecting the incredible grandeur of what I think is a lot of Georgian/early Victorian architecture. If you like great old buildings (and I do) this is the place for you. Then there’s the ironwork and bridges to consider – it’s kind of odd stepping out of a hotel and being confronted with the massive engineering of the bottom of the curve supporting the Tyne Bridge. Looking up and seeing how the rail and road bridges were civil engineering over the top of multi-storied buildings was really something.

Thankfully the hotel has sent a warning about the kittiwakes, though in fairness, they didn’t disturb our rest.

The events Newcastle Noir were fabulous, the work that Dr Noir and her wonderful team of helpers put in is just astronomic.  They did a cracking job and it was wonderful to meet such charming and committed people who clearly take great pleasure and pride in what they do.

Then there are the events themselves, the panels and discussions.  Newcastle Noir offers such a range of writers, from the established and famous (Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Macbride, Val McDermid), down to the absolute New Bloods (Sandra Ireland, Vicky Newham, Robert Scragg, GB Williams – yes me!).  There were representatives from all over as well, there was Northumberland Noir, Tartan Noir, Nordic Noir, Masala Noir, and Crime in translation, which included Lilja Sigurðardóttir – and embarrassing as it is to admit it, no, I can’t pronounce her surname. So many interesting things to listen to, everyone with a different opinion and all opinions welcome.

Thoroughly enjoyed my panel, another engaged audience, which is always fun, and a good selection of panel companions. Lively answers and different experiences discussed, it was fab.  Audience participation was great – questions that you don’t expect can throw you for six, but I was surprised that I wasn’t thrown. A couple of weeks ago I was saying to a friend of mine (another writer) that I was a bit nervous about doing the panels, but after Llandeilo and now Newcastle – not a worry at all.  I loved it in fact. Now I hate doing presentations in work, generally because I’m never that sure of myself, but when it comes to writing, it’s something so ingrained into who I am, that I don’t have to worry, it’s all just there, the answers don’t have to be dug for, because I just know them. That probably sounds a bit arrogant, and I don’t mean to be, but when you’re talking about something that you’re passionate about, it really does just flow.

What was lovely was also the comments I got from audience members after who came to get their books signed. Every comment was complimentary, and I even had one of my fellow panellists come up after and tell me that a friend of theirs in the audience had said I was the nicest of the rest the of the bunch! That’s so sweet – and probably unfounded, but a lovely thing to hear all the same.

Anyway, it was a great weekend, I’m definitely going back for more next year (if I’m on a panel or not), and I can totally recommend the even to anyone who enjoys crime fiction.

Oh, one last shout out. Forum Books – what wonderful people and thanks for selling books from independent authors who turn up with them on the day – thank you so much.

Great weekend, long drive back, lots had to be done today, hence the last posting, but boy was it a great break from the norm.  Thanks to everyone who contributed to such a marvellous experience.

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Psychopaths Panel

Llandeilo LitFest 2018Should start by stating that the panel was about Psychopaths in Literature, not a panel of psychopaths.  Though…

Tonight I am back from a weekend of Llandeilo Litfest – it was a blast!  My first ever experience of being on a panel and I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a great hour.

The panel was led by Thorne Moore, writer of psychological crime novels, many of which are based here in Wales.  She did a great job of asking pertinent questions that set the rest of us off into interesting discussions.

My fellow panellists were John Nicholl and John Thompson. Now John N is an ex-police officer, and John T is a barrister, which left me feeling a little out of place – I’ve never worked in any of the law enforcement or legal occupations.  I’m an office bod who specialises in system design (Excel and Access mostly), so least qualified there.

What I enjoyed was that the three of us didn’t always agree which makes for lively conversation, all good-natured.  It was also lovely to get some really good audience participation going with an open floor and some back and forth.

To find more about these lovely people try:

 

It was also great to see some old friends and make new ones.  People that I’ve connected to on the internet, I finally got to meet in real life. New people that I met for the first time too.  All the writers were lovely people and everyone willing to lend a hand at all points, writers are just about the most supportive group of people I have ever met. Then there were people who I know through Swansea and District Writers’ Circle, lovely to see everyone again.  Had some great chats at the Book Fair and managed to sell a few volumes too.

Thanks to all who made it a great weekend.

 

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