Parlour game

Bonnets are everywhere due to the bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice*. This blog could not resist the temptation to join in, especially when the said article of apparel features so prominently in Douce’s folders of costumes, where the fashion plate below can be found:

Anonymous, Promenade in Kensington Gardens June 22-1806, hand-coloured etching and stipple (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Bonnets are also very much in evidence in an early nineteenth-century set of cards that Douce kept with his wood engravings: each oblong print is divided in two squares in which two characters (usually one male and one female) appear in different attitudes, with captions below:

Anonymous, Parlour game, c. 1800-25, hand-coloured wood engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

The parlour game to which they pertain probably consisted in splitting the cards, distributing the male and female characters among the company assembled, and then pairing them again to create random conversation lines:

We suppose that the players would be amused by the resulting scenes of courtship, whether successful, as in the example above, or not, as can be seen below:

Needless to say, no self-respecting Jane Austen heroine would be caught dead playing such a game.

*BBC News on Pride and Prejudice’s 200th anniversary


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