Tagged Victorian Culture

My Biggest Gripes with Austen Movies (Miss Gail Recommends)

Posted by Gail Carriger

Generally speaking, Gentle Reader, when times are tough I watch Austen movies. I know, I know, but we all have our visual comfort food.

Austen Movie Sins Promo Blog Post

I don’t like to be negative here on the blog, but I figure taking sublime umbrage in a Jane Austen movie adaptation ranks pretty low on the totem poll of putting negativity out into the world. Still, if you come here for all things positive, best to skip this post.

Still with me?

For the purposes of this discussion I’m going to talk about only those movies and miniseries produced in the last 20 years.

I have plenty of gripes with the 1970s BBC series of adaptations, but those party stem from being made the 1970s, just as it would for some of the 1950s and earlier black & white productions.

All of these, then, I tend to think of as period pieces, both in and of themselves, and representing the aesthetic and directorial style of he time in which they were made. As such, I hold them to different standards.

So without further adoo…

Gail’s Biggest Pet Peeves in Austen Movies

Okay then, let’s talk things about Austen adaptations that bother me.

Hair Sins Austen Wear it Up

A Lady’s Hair Is WORN UP

For goodness sake. There is absolutely no excuse of any grown female character in an Austen movie to have her hair down and loose. Under no circumstances, outside of the bedroom, would this have been acceptable. Even young girls would have had it plaited or tied with ribbon, or treated in some way.

We are talking Austen characters here, basically tradeswomen and higher ranked. THE HAIR WOULD BE UP.  It is absolutely unacceptable in a period piece to break this society regulation. It’s upsetting to watch, breaks the suspension of disbelief, and instantly modernizes a character.

It’s like being at the Renaissance Faire and seeings someone in full proper garb… wearing sun glasses.

Sanditon hair ARGH

Sanditon is doubly egregious in this manner, her hair cut and styling are entirely modern, plus she is at a very windy beach half the time, where any normal human with long hair would tie it back, doesn’t even matter if it’s period or not. The director’s choice in this matter is unforgivable.

Billie Mansfield Park Austen Half Back Hair

Billie Piper’s half-back atrocity in Mansfield Park, and Jemima Rooper’s ultra modern bob in Lost in Austen, I’m assuming have something to do with the actress weighing in on brand image. (And yes, I get that Lost in Austen is portal fantasy, but if she’s putting on the period dresses she should put up her mother-fing-hair!)

Lost Austen Modern Bob

Incidentally, Gwyneth’s Emma is a bit too severely scraped back into a bun, she looks like a ballet dancer half the time. And I can’t stand even thinking about Kiera’s neck bangs in Pride & Prejudice.

Regency Hairstyles Jane Austen

What I expected?

At the very least: parted in the middle, curls at the side of the face, bun directly at the back or slightly higher up. Yes they got more elaborate than this, but this is the basic. Here’s a historical article on the subject. The 1995 Pride & Prejudice mini series does a decent job with the hair.

Glove SIns Austen

Ladies Wore Gloves In Public!

This is a harder one to spot in movies, but generally speaking, ladies and gentlemen of a certain class (or aspiring to that class) wore gloves in public for everything BUT eating. So sitting down at a meal, or eating from the buffet at a ball = no gloves. Otherwise, dancing, walking, socializing, visiting = GLOVES!

Pride and Prejudice Kiera Darcy No Gloves Ball Austen

In the Keira Pride & Prejudice movie she and Darcy are not wearing gloves at their dance, neither are Anne and her men in Becoming Jane.

Becoming Jane Austen Dancing No Gloves

The most recent Emma (2020) committed this offense in both directions. First Anya is dancing without gloves in “that scene.” Second she eats a strawberry with her gloves on. Sigh.

Gloves Eating Austen Emma

You need only watch Under the Greenwood Tree (Victorian later period, but still about the gloves) for the sexiest no gloves scene ever filmed. They are washing their hands and it’s practically a sex scene.

Not wearing gloves is a serious business. And I get that’s what the director is alluding to in 2020 Emma, but still, there is no excuse for her not to be wearing gloves at a ball! I mean they made special gloves exactly for balls!

Jane Austen Society Gloves

What I expected?

Gloves. I expected to see gloves. On ladies and gentlemen!

“I was very lucky in my gloves–got them at the first shop I went to…and gave only four shillings for them; upon hearing which everybody at Chawton will be hoping and predicting that they cannot be good for anything, and their worth certainly remains to be proved; but I think they look very well.”

~ Jane Austen, 1813

So those are my big ones, what are some of yours? Anything you peeve about in Austen movies?

Yours (destined to die on the tiniest of hills),

Miss Gail

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Defy or Defend, a new Delightfully Deadly book featuring Dimity!

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Dimity, London’s cheerfullest spy, must fix a broken vampire hive while a gentle soldier tries to keep her safe. A charming makeover story set in the popular Parasolverse.

It’s a battle for survival… and wallpaper!

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Tisane of Nifty 

Shoes Before Corset

Writerly Tincture 

5 Bookish Ways To Stay Connected Amidst Quarantine

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The first lines of 10 classic novels, rewritten for social distancing.

The Austen character that I, Gail, most identify with…

Gail Carriger Austen Characters Catherine du Burg Lady Susan Fanny Price

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Want A Sneak Peek at the Research Behind Gail Carriger’s Competence? (Custard Protocol Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Hello Gentle Reader,

Here, for you entertainment, amusement and titillation are a few links and peeks into some of the research that I had to do for Competence, Custard Protocol #3. I do hope you enjoy!


Blog Posts & Other Articles


What was the inspiration for setting Miss Primrose Tunstell in Singapore?

I was at the Singapore Writers Festival a few years ago and just fell in love with the place.

I also visited the National History Museum there and picked up a little book of collected primary source material from the 1890s that isn’t available elsewhere.

Then I promised the Minister of Culture Sim Ann (who is a fan of mine – squee!) that I would put it in the next book. I like to keep my promises.

Want a taste of Singapore’s infamous Kaya Toast? Just get this coconut jam (actually coconut curd) and spread on toast with salted butter (it’s not exactly right but it’s still so good).

Warning, must love coconut.

Yours forever (in coconutty goodness),

Miss Gail

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  • Coop de Book for July is Competence, of course. (Discussion here.


Competence and matched books that influenced

Amazon (hardcover) (audio) | B&N (hardcover) | Book Depository (hardcover)

 KoboiBooks | Audible

SIGNED edition, use the SIGNED button


 Amazon.uk (paperback)| Book Depository (paperback) Kobo

Direct from Gail for Kindle .mobi | non-Amazon digital readers .epub

 Competence by Gail Carriger is the third in the Custard Protocol series featuring Primrose, Rue, and all their crazy friends..

Accidentally abandoned!

All alone in Singapore, proper Miss Primrose Tunstell must steal helium to save her airship, the Spotted Custard, in a scheme involving a lovesick werecat and a fake fish tail.


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Allen & Ginter (American, Richmond, Virginia)
Common Time March, from the Parasol Drills series (N18) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes Brands, 1888

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

My new teapot purse!

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

The Subtle Sexiness of Parasols

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

Book News:

Prim & Tash for Ace Artemis

Quote of the Day:

“Fish, to taste right, must swim three times – in water, in butter, and in wine.”

~ Polish Proverb

Questions about Gail’s Parasolverse? Wiki that sheez!

Behind the Scenes Pretties in How to Marry a Werewolf! Claw & Courtship (Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger

Now that How the Marry a Werewolf has hit the world I can give you some sneaky behind the scenes stuff, Gentle Reader!

How about some of the hats and dresses mentioned in the story? Well you can check out the inspiration Pinterest board for How to Marry a Werewolf!

Want my ideas on casting Faith, the main character from this book? Some of her favorite dresses and my vintage inspiration for this character? Check her out on Pinterest.

Want to look at how I imagine Teddy?

Just because…


Teddy & Faith Fooling Around

How to Marry was very much inspired by Heyer’s work, this one is on sale today!


Amazon (print) | Kobo | B&N (print) | iBooks 

Direct from Gail (Optional Signed Edition) 

How to Marry a Werewolf (In 10 Easy Steps) ~ A Claw & Courtship Novella by Gail Carriger features a certain white wolf we all love to hate (except those of us weirdos who love to love him).

Guilty of an indiscretion? Time to marry a werewolf.

Rejected by her family, Faith crosses the Atlantic, looking for a marriage of convenience and revenge. But things are done differently in London. Werewolves are civilized. At least they pretend to be.


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

How To Organize Your Cords

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

If You’re Not Sure How a Male Author Would Describe You, Use This Handy Chart

Book News:

Pink books & saucers

Quote of the Day:

“I love walking into a bookstore. It’s like all my friends are sitting on shelves, waving their pages at me.”

~ Tahereh Mafi

Questions about Gail’s Parasolverse? Wiki that sheez!

Some Silly 1890s Hats For Ivy & Primrose (Custard Protocol Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Just some fun hats for you today, Fashionable Reader. I’m thinking of Ivy, or Primrose, or what Ivy might buy for Primrose.

Allen & Ginter (American, Richmond, Virginia)
Wait for Escort, from the Parasol Drills series (N18) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes Brands, 1888

If you haven’t found it already this kind of thing shows up on the Retro Rack Group quite a bit, and there you can also share your own.


Allen & Ginter (American, Richmond, Virginia)
Patrol, from the Parasol Drills series (N18) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes Brands, 1888

Dead Bird!

Allen & Ginter (American, Richmond, Virginia)
Not Engaged, from the Parasol Drills series (N18) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes Brands, 1888


Allen & Ginter (American, Richmond, Virginia)
Right Shoulder Arms, from the Parasol Drills series (N18) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes Brands, 1888

This last one I think is particularly Ivy!


Allen & Ginter (American, Richmond, Virginia)
Parade Rest, from the Parasol Drills series (N18) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes Brands, 1888

Related Yummy Links

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Coop de Book for March is Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina. (Discussion here.)


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Romancing the Werewolf ~ A Supernatural Society Novella by Gail Carriger is now available (audio will follow).

Gay reunion romance featuring your favorite reluctant werewolf dandy, the return of a certain quietly efficient Beta, and some unexpected holiday gifts.


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Frederick Frieseke (American artist, 1874-1939) In the Garden, Giverny

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Child Gail & Grown Up Gail #cosplayersaskids

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

An Introduction to Black Tea

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

31 Essential Science Fiction Terms And Where They Came From

Book News:

Quote of the Day:

“There is no I in team but there is tea. Just thought I’d point that out.”

~ Gail on Twitter

Questions about Gail’s Parasolverse? There’s a wiki for that!

The Etiquette of Proper Introductions in Victorian Times (Finishing School Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


There are all sorts of rules for introductions in Victorian society, Gentle Reader.

Basically, the person whose name you say first is the more important person, to whom the other is being made known. The inferior is introduced to the superior.

“Duke Hematol, may I introduce Dr. Caedes?”

The duke outranks the doctor.

However, this can get very confusing because aside from rank and social standing (see the Table of Precedence or precedence of attendance) there are also other rules to abide by (see laws/rules of precedence).

For example:

A younger person is introduced to an older person.

“Mr. Rabiffano, Mr. Shabumpkin would like to make your acquaintance.”

A man is introduced to a woman.

“Mrs. Tunstell, please allow me to present Mr. Bootbottle-Fipps.”

And so forth.

So what happens if you have an older woman of little or no rank and a young nobleman? Or two women, the younger of which is married to an earl and the older to a squire? Or what happens if you throw long lived immortals into the mix?

Alexia struggles with just such a situation in the fifth book, Timeless. She must introduce a young lady werewolf whose rank she knows, to an older noble vampire who holds rank (but she is not privy to the particulars). Because he is a vampire and it is his house, she gives him precedence. But she could have reversed the order, especially if she wanted to give insult to the vampire or establish her own allegiance with the werewolves.

A world of damage can be done or avoided simply by reordering an introduction.

I never go into any of this in my books, because it is mere minutia to those who are reading for plot and story. But it is one of those things that, if you know how the era works, sometimes you can read that I am having fun with the undercurrents that may result. It certainly can effect character.


The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg is possibly the book associated with my Alexia series more than any other. It is on sale today for only $1.99 (USA ebook) so worth a try if you’re pining after already finishing RTW.

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Coop de Book: Gail’s monthly read along for November is Romancing the Werewolf.

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Your Moment of Parasol . . .

1905 Fringed Parasol, ca. 1805 via LACMA

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

The Oxford Comma, Robert Frost, and Comma Suicide

Quote of the Day:

“It was one of those jolly, peaceful mornings that make a fellow wish he’d got a soul or something.”

~ P.G. Wodehouse

Questions about Gail’s Parasolverse? There’s a wiki for that!

Egypt from a Dirigible: Imprudence & Timeless (Parasol Protectorate Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


In Imprudence Rue and her crew visit Egypt just as Alexia and Conall did in Timeless.

Rue goes in for the capital, Cairo, while Alexia spent most of her time in the port city of Alexandria.

Ancient Alexandria

  • Founded by Alexander of Macedon (the Great) c. 332-331 B.C.
  • Located in the Nile delta
  • Renowned for its giant lighthouse – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, destroyed
  • Library at Alexandria, destroyed
  • Mouseion (of which the library was a part) Ptolomy’s center of science and philosophy
  • Roman catacombs
  • Capital of the country for close to 1,000 years
  • Citadel of Qait Bey, Pompey’s Pillar, the Roman Theater, the Presidential Palace, Montaza Palace, and the Ras el-Tin Palace
  • Additional information on Ancient Vine

Victorian Alexandria

Alexandia shoreline 1882, personal collection



  • Egypt under the Muhammad Ali Pasha dynasty (1805–1953)
  • Khedivate of Egypt under British patronage ~ specifically Sanctioned khedival rule (1867–1914)
  • Nominally independent Sultanate of Egypt and Kingdom of Egypt, ending with the Revolution of 1952 and the formation of the Republic of Egypt
  • 1882 civil unrest, rebellion

In Imprudence I have one quick reference to the troubles of 1882. I knew of this from my prior research for Timeless. I did a blog post about it at the time, in March of 2011 when we were experiencing the Arab Spring.

Alexandria 1882 landscape rebellion, personal collection


From Wikipedia: “Isma’il was succeeded by his eldest son Tewfik, who, unlike his younger brothers, had not been educated in Europe. Tewfik pursued a policy of closer relations with Britain and France but his authority was undermined in a rebellion led by his war minister, Arabi Pasha, in 1882. Arabi took advantage of violent riots in Alexandria to seize control of the government and temporarily depose Tewfik.”

Alexandria 1882, personal collection


“British naval forces shelled and captured Alexandria, and an expeditionary force under General Sir Garnet Wolseley was formed in England. The British army landed in Egypt soon afterwards, and defeated Arabi’s army in the Battle of Tel el-Kebir. Arabi was tried for treason and sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to exile. After the revolt, the Egyptian army was reorganized on a British model and commanded by British officers.”

Victorians leaving Alexandria by steam ship, 1882, personal collection




In Timeless, Alexia visits Alexandria, in April of 1876 when things are comparatively calm.

The eagle eye will notice that the background for the US cover is actually Cairo, where Alexia never goes in the book. Although I think I added a mention of her stopping over, just to explain away the cover. I’ve no idea what city is depicted in the background of the second omnibus.

Japan set Timeless floating over a rather lush river, it’s possible there are some areas of the Nile that are that green. Generally it’s a bit more bare or palm tree riddled, but I won’t quibble too much. Germany put Alexia back into Cairo.

Nile River


Alexandria is all the way off to the left in this image. Cairo is the bottom tip.



  • Rue visits my version of steampunk Egypt in October of 1895 during the reign of Tewfik’s son, Abbas II.
  • Sudanese territory has been lost (as the British would think of it) to an Islamic state.
  •  Shortly after Rue leaves in 1896 (Abbas II), a massive Anglo-Egyptian force, under “General Herbert Kitchener, began the reconquest of the Sudan.[12] The Mahdists were defeated in the battles of Abu Hamid and Atbara. The campaign was concluded with the Anglo-Egyptian victory of Omdurman, the Mahdist capital.”
  • At first I was going to take Rue back to Alexandria, partly so I could use Alexia to discuss how the city has changed in the past 20 years. But in Timeless I mention that Lord Maccon purchased property in Cairo for their retirement, well within the plague zone. So I switched Rue’s location to Cairo. Lost a bit of writing time there since I’d already done 2K on Alexandria in a new more steampunky form, but it worked much better for the plot line to be in Cairo, anyway.
  • I scrabbled about for any further Victorian perspectives on Cairo or the rest of Egypt between 1883 ~ 1895. But there appears to be no major issues of civil unrest and in this the British press seems akin to their modern counterparts, which is to say, not particularly interested if there is no blood involved.
  •  I didn’t spend a great deal of time on it as, quite frankly, Rue doesn’t spend a great deal of time in the city. Although I hope you will notice I steampunked Cairo up especially as compared to Alexandria in Timeless. The march of technological advancement is strong with this one.

Modern Alexandria

Alexandria Image #95


* second largest city in Egypt
* typical Mediterranean climate: extremely warm/humid days in summer, breezy and cool in the evenings, winter is chilly with rain and hail not uncommon, spring and autumn are best weather.

Mix of ancient and modern.



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Your Moment of Parasol . . .

carolathhabsburg- Mourning attire. Fashion plate, circa 1894

carolathhabsburg- Mourning attire. Fashion plate, circa 1894

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Bean Back wiskers curled paws2

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

Why We Should Never Underestimate the Intelligence of an Octopus

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

Female Spies and Gender Bending Soldiers Changed the Course of the Civil War

Quote of the Day:

“Indifference is the revenge the world takes on mediocrities.”

~ Oscar Wilde

Questions about Gail’s steampunk world? There’s a wiki for that!

Imprudence Research & Reference Links (Behind the Magic)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Hello Gentle Reader, with Imprudence releasing oh so soon.


Here’s a glimpse into some of the research I had to do for this next Custard Protocol book.

Queen Victoria via  Elaine Powell @ManchesterSteam


Politics in the Sudan before and after Rue visits


Generally Useful Victorian Stuff


In Which Rue References Things You Might Not Know Of

  • Maxim gun (as opposed to the Gatling or the Nordenfelt)
  • Maahes the ancient Egyptian lion-headed god of war, whose name means “he who is true beside her”.
  • Sekhmet

“Our Homes in 1883 estimated that the average person needed 22 gallons of water a day, divided up as:
Domestic usage, excluding laundry 9 gallons
WCs 5 gallons
Baths, one a week 5 gallons
Washing clothes 3 gallons”
~ The Victorian House by Judith Flanders
(According to USGS.gov the average water use per person per day in the US is 80-100 gallons.)

“Milk is the great difficulty in travelling tea-making. It cannot always be easily obtained, and milk carried about with one in a bottle does not long retain its freshness in hot weather. Some people do not object to the condensed or Swiss milk one buys in small tins. It has the advantage of being extremely portable, but I must confess, personally, to finding its effect detestable in tea or coffee.”

~ Hints to Lady Travellers: At Home and Abroad (Royal Geographic Society) by Lillias Campbell Davidson (1889)

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Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Fashion plate, 1896 via shewhoworshipscarlin

Fashion plate, 1896 via shewhoworshipscarlin

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

Victorian Sewing: A Brief History of Plain and Fancy Work

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

10 Fantasy Authors Who Fight the Patriarchy, Gender Stereotypes, and Possibly Dragons

Book News:

Difficult, But Fascinating: The Gail Carriger Interview with William Pinfold

Quote of the Day:

“By the end, Rafe wore the long-suffering looking of an eagle being ordered about by a flock of excited pigeons.”

~ Heartless

Questions about Gail’s steampunk world? There’s a wiki for that!

Behind the Scenes Custard Protocol ~ Things I’ve Had to Research (Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger

One of the best things about being an author, Gentle Reader, is all the odd things I end up having to look up.

Here’s a non-spoiler window into some of the things I had to research, investigate, or cogitate while working on Imprudence, as well as a few writer-beast revelations.

Book People Imprudence Display

Weird Goings On

Mid 1850’s Fern Fad:

“Women collected and classified ferns, the cultivated and bred ferns, the made outdoor ferneries, the dried, pressed, mounted and framed ferns. They made splatter pictures of them.”

~ The Victorian House by Judith Flanders

Quarrel is a wonderful word, and seemingly quite British sounding.

Queen Victoria had some pretty kicking mourning gowns after Albert died. But she doesn’t seem to be particularly fond of the normally ubiquitous crape. Perhaps she wore it early on and then went towards light mourning, keeping with black silks and velvets but trimming in lace and fringe and such? Anyway, this lead me down a mourning dress rabbit hole.


via CVLT Nation


One little “a” makes all the difference in managed versus manged.

Heterochromia iridum.

Introducing: Rue’s best day dress. Since the second book is set in October 1895 the dress is ahead of its time, but you know me, I am weak in the face of polka dots.


1897-1898  The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Incidentally, I keep track of Rue & Prim’s various dresses by storing the images by chapter for each book. (When I am using actual historic pictures.) Otherwise outfits are concocted based on descriptions out of the big blue book of Victorian dress AKA English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century: A Comprehensive Guide. I use this book so much that, having noticed it is also available as an ebook, I bought it again, so as to have it with me when on the move. I’m a sucker.

Games for Spoo & Virgil

  • blind-man’s-buff
  • hide-and-seak
  • puss in the corner
  • tick-tack-to
  • leap-frog

The discovery of oxygen. I think there is a word for when multiple scientists discover the same important thing at (basically) the same time in disconnected locals (Kuhn would mutter something about dominant paradigms and the structure of scientific revolutions but that’s neither here nor there, unless you’re an entomologist, in which case it’s both) but I can’t remember what that word is.

On the horrid atmosphere in Victorian London. R. John Simon, London’s first medical officer, noted in Paris the

“transparance of air, the comparative brightness of all colour, the visibility of distant objects, the cleanliness of faces and buildings, instead of our opaque atmosphere, deadened colours, obscured distance, smutted faces and black architecture.”

~ The Victorian House by Judith Flanders

Some interesting descriptive words used to describe a Worth skirt (for Prim):
  • basques
  • hollowing scallops
  • velvet arabesques
  • pannier puffs


via steampunk-art- tumble     Steampunk Art


Things that didn’t make it into the book but likely should have…

What would Rue’s theme food be?

  • Red Currant Clafoutis ~ right look and feel with the red currents gloating in the custard, spotted & custard and red like the ladybug balloon. But perhaps not British sounding enough? Then again Rue is an explorer and world traveler.
  • Eccles Cake + Custard ~ very British name, just confusing enough to be exotic to American readers, Rue does adore puff pastry, but the currents are not really floating in a spotty manner, and the custard is in sauce form, more as Americans would think of pudding.
  • Spotted Dick ~ later on in history than Rue, this boiled/steamed pudding is associated with schoolboys, perhaps a little crass in terminology even for our intrepid heroine, however sounds like an STD, also not a custard but served with a custard sauce.


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Toilettes for Summer  May 1898 Delineator  Canadian Museum of History

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
Trigger the Cat

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Queen Victoria, a polka, and 8,000 soldiers 1853

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
Bookshelf Chair

Book News:
Sam Wachter of Cherry Blossoms and Maple Syrup says: “Prudence was totally worth waiting for, given all the hiccups before its release. It’s as sassy as the Parasol Protectorate series, but still has it’s own distinctive voice and sense of humour.”

Quote of the Day:

“She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had forgotten to say “when”. ”

― P.G. Wodehouse

Victorian Money Means Coins – Research Behind Steampunk (Custard Protocol Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


This is one of those blog posts in which I demonstrate the nitty-gritty of research in an aggravatingly nit-picky way.

This is an amended reboot from 2012 when I first started writing Prudence.

Read at your own risk.

To protect the guilty I’m not going to name any names, Gentle Reader, and I’d like to state up front that currency is not my expertise.

However, I was reading a book of the alt-historical romantic variety. The hero visits a whore in Victorian London, 1883.

For her pains he “pulled out far more notes than planned and handed them to her.”

I had to put the book down.

It was very upsetting.

Coins vs. Notes in Victorian England


First, bank notes are drawn on a bank more like a cashier’s check (or an IOU) than paper money today, which means the whore in our above example would have to go into a bank to redeem her notes or find herself a very non-suspicious tradesman, in modern times this is a little like trying to break a $1000 bill.


Second, no one regularly carried notes or paid for anything with notes until well after the 1920s. Culturally, no one would carry that much money into the kind of area of London where whore houses are located.

For services people paid with coin, with tradesmen (who handle goods) the wealthy actually paid via their butler or valet or abigail’s coin, or on account, because it was beneath them to physically touch money.

Even, as the author was trying to get across, this was a highly generous gesture, NOT WITH PAPER MONEY HE WOULDN’T.


We writers all make mistakes. I have made more than my share. And there comes a time when every historical author must stop researching and begin writing (or the book never gets written).

I do understand and believe that some modernization is necessary in alt-history genre fiction because most readers want their books to be fun and entertaining. It is our business, as authors, to provide that first. (Now for genres like historical fiction or biographies this is a different matter. I am speaking in terms of managing expectations.)


However, I do think something as basic as currency should be second knowledge if you are going to write in any alternate time period. It’s like getting the basic clothing terms correct. (In another unnamed steampunk novel, a corset was referred to as a bodice. FYI, both terms are incorrect. At the time, a corset would have been mainly referred to as stays. The bodice is the top part of a dress. Thus, I spent the entire scene confused into thinking the character in question was swanning around with only her torso dressed, rather than entirely in her underthings as was intended. But, I digress . . .)

A corset AKA stays

Godeys July 1872 Bodices

On Victorian Money (from Baedecker’s London 1896)

  • sovereign or pound (gold) = 20 shillings
  • half-sovereign (gold) = 10 shillings
  • crown (silver) = 5 shillings
  • half-crown (silver) = (2 shillings & a six penny piece)
  • double florin (silver – rare) = 4 shillings
  • florin (silver) = 2 shillings
  • shilling (silver & same size as a sovereign) = 12 pennies
  • six penny (silver) = 6 pennies
  • three penny (silver) = 3 pennies
  • penny (bronze) = 4 farthings
  • half penny = 2 farthings
  • farthing
From lot at auction.


I know, I know, overly complicated. Think back to that wonderful scene with the money exchange in Room With a View when Cousin Charlotte comes to visit Lucy’s family.

“In England alone of the more important states of Europe the currency is arranged without reference to the decimal system.”
~ Karl Baedeker, 1896

Victorian Money in Terms of Value

In 1896: 1 sovereign was approximately: 5 American dollars, 25 francs, 20 German marks, or 10 Austrian florins.

To reiterate: The Bank of England issued notes for 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 pounds or more. They were generally not used in ordinary life as most people “dealt in coin.” Gentlemen and ladies, when shopping, either had a servant with them to handle the coin (including gratuities & all fares) or paid on credit (AKA account). A shop would then send a bill around to the townhouse at the end of the month on Black Monday, which would be paid by the house steward, accountant, or personal secretary. A gentleman handling his own money is either no gentleman or engaged in nefarious activities like gambling or trade.

Baedeker advises letters of credit (AKA circular notes) drawn on a major bank for travel, to be exchanged for local currency upon arrival. He also advises never carrying a full days worth of coinage about your person.

It’s important, as historical writers, for us to grasp a larger picture – so allow me to attempt to put this into perspective…

Middle class wages per annum 1850-1890:

  • A Bank of England Clerk £75 to £500
  • Civil Service clerk £80 to £200
  • Post Office clerk £90 to £260
  • Senior Post Office clerk £350 to £500

So let’s say a middle class wage was anything from £75 to £500 a year, that’s £1.44 – £9.61 a week for a relatively comfortable lifestyle.

Since there is no £1 note, to “pull out far more notes than planned” as our unnamed author writes above, and give such to a whore, means at least £5 per note. More than one means at least £10. Not only should this character not have been carrying that kind of money, he just tipped that woman better than one week’s salary for the upper middle class to someone who likely could never break that bill, today that’s something on the order of $2,500.

A gentleman of lower standing, say a younger son with a Living could expect something similar to upper middle class £350-500.

Titled or large landed gentry could pull in anything from £1000 to £10,000 a year (what, you thought the 99% was a new thing?).

A dowry for landed country gentry’s daughter of few means would be about £100 a year.

Still, even the highest aristocrat wouldn’t tip in notes, ever. If for no other reason than it’s the kind of thing the neuvo riche, or An American might do. (It’s worth noting that poor were a great deal poorer, earning shillings per week or less.)

Later on, this same author writes “cost me twenty quid to delay matters” of bribing a coroner to delay a funeral. That’s a heavy bribe, about $5000. I couldn’t find any information on coroner’s pay in Victorian times (the job was either uncommon, not yet official, or went by another name) so let’s say grave digger, which is well below middle class, so a £20 bribe would probably be about a year’s income for the man.

End of Rant

A Budget from 19th Century Historical Tidbits

Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest. Or should I say “out of my chest”? Chink chink.

So, if you have a Victorian setting (really, anything up through the 1920s) what do we pay with?

Yes, that’s right children, coins!

This is also a rather depressingly clear indication of how Gail Carriger spends her weekends. I am such a dork.

“I may be a chump, but it’s my boast that I don’t owe a penny to a single soul – not counting tradesmen, of course.”

~ Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

As always, you don’t have to take my word for it. Earlier in time, but still relevant podcast…

More or Less Behind the Stats: How Rich was Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy?

How does this relate to Prudence?

Well might you ask. What I had to do (or thought I had to do) was determine the conversion rate between pounds and rupees traveling from England to India in 1895.

Unfortunately, Baedecker didn’t write for India.

What I ended up having to do was make some very loose estimations based on the above assumptions of middle class wages and the information I could source, which was monthly accounts for a household of four living in India on a diplomat’s wage between 1880 and 1897 (something on the order of £500 per annum). Here’s my fun chart:

Here’s hoping the above was, if not fun, at least informative or, if you yourself are an author, helpful.

Prudence by Gail Carriger

Pip pip!

{Gail’s monthly read along for January 2016 is The Raven’s Ring by Patricia Wrede. You do not have to have read any other Lyra books.}


Your Infusion of Cute . . .
Octopus Candle Holder

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Knickerbockers for Women: From Under the Hiking Skirts to the Fad of the Hour

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

“Writing my books I enjoy. It is the thinking them out that is apt to blot the sunshine from my life.”

~ P.G. Wodehouse

Book News:

Sam of ARC Review says of Manners & Mutiny:

“While I’m having a hard time letting these characters go, I won’t forget the mayhem they caused, and the joy they gave me as a reader.”

Quote of the Day:

“Da Silva announced his intention of settling in the library to commune with his muse. Curtis, feeling sorry for the muse, said that he preferred to explore the house and acquaint himself with its features.”

~ Think of England by KJ Charles

Unused Finishing School Notes (Behind the Scenes)

Posted by Gail Carriger


And now, Gentle Reader,  for some serious bloggage…

Manners Finishing Soap Shirt merch Finishing School promo Gail Carriger

Finishing School DVD Extras!

One of the last things I did, Gentle Reader, when I was handing in my final draft of Manners & Mutiny, was go over my story bible for the whole book series. I’m not going to let you peek at the bible itself. For one thing, my handwriting is awful. For another, my spelling is embarrassing. (By all accounts, I am not an Accomplished Young Lady.)

The story bible is a messy creature full of crossed out bits, arrows from one section to another, pasted in photos, funny small sketches, different colored pen. It’s not worth sharing. Even if it didn’t have notes and thoughts on future unwritten things which would be much with the ruination of future works.

But, I thought you might like a peek as some fun bits and bobs from that final read through. Me trying to pick up all my threads. Trying not to forget anything or anyone (expect by intent). I’ve marked the point when the notes become spoilery for the last book.


Dates of Finishing School Books

  1. October 1851
  2. March 1852
  3. February 1853 (Soph 16, Sid 16, Dim almost 15, Ag 14)
  4. December 1853 (Soph 16, Dim 15, Ag 15) Transitions into New Year 1854

Girls Birthdays

  • Sidheag February 1, 1837
  • Sophronia November 29, 1837
  • Dimity February 2, 1838
  • Agatha May 4, 1838

Ran across this inspiration image of the Misses Zena and Phyllis Dare: actresses of the Edwardian musical comedy fame (set much after these books).


I know it’s the wrong time period but this image very much informed my idea of the relationship between Dimity and Sophronia. Dimity is the more round face smiling Phyllis to the left, and Sophronia the longer face more reserved Zena at the front.

On Hair Pieces

“It has been suggested that those ladies who wish to wear a real hair mattress on their heads, surmounted by several stories of hat, with a parterre of flowers to crown the whole, shall insert in their headdress for the theatre an opera-glass, to rest on the top of the head, ranging fore and aft, so that gentlemen witting behind can see through it to the stage.”
~ Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine August 1872

C&C in Japan

Various Level of Evil Genius (top down)

  1. Evil Genius
  2. Vengeful Genius
  3. Spiteful Genius
  4. Reprobate Genius
  5. Discourteous Genius
  6. Mildly Rude Genius

Stuff That Never Made It In:

  • Notes on history of Dartmoor, stone circles, etc. Dartmoor in time-lapse.
  • Background information about Alessandro and his activities before his death in 1850. Might he have had some connection to the school before Sophronia arrived? Ended up not being relevant to these books. Is there a short story there? Maybe. We know he knew Professor Lefoux from before, in Paris, because Vieve remembers him.
  • Long list of silly Sister Mattie-isms. Apparently I had intended to introduce her character by depicting her praise a student for making the whole class sick. She ended up with a lot less screen time than I had anticipated. It’s OK, the students were the important focus. Funny how when I started I thought the teachers would be so much more prevalent in these books, and adult/teacher perspective. But as I got immersed in Sophronia and her world I realized to her, they were less necessary than her friendships. Which is exactly right, I feel.
  • 1853 Royal christening, Nesselrode pudding a big deal, fog in London much remarked upon.
  • Picklemen also referred to as The Men Who Pickle.
  • Mademoiselle Geraldine was supposed to call the students “my dumplings.”
  • Lady Linette, “So you have learned how to walk. Next we learn how to walk and steal a man’s heart at the same time.”
  • Sophronia walnut-dying her skin to see what it’s like to be black.
  • The fact that Soap doesn’t like fish.


E&E in Japan

On the French System of Manners

“One of the highest merits of the French system of manners is that it tacitly lays down the principle that all persons meeting in the same house know each other without the formality of introduction. Any man may ask any girl to dance, or speak to anybody at a private party. This in no way extends to public gatherings, where the guarantee of supposed equality, which results from the fact of knowing the same host, does not exist. But in drawing-rooms the rule is absolute; everybody may talk to everybody. This is an intelligent and most practical custom; it facilitates conversation, is dispels all awkwardness towards your neighbor, it melts cold in a house were you do not now a soul, it gives a look of warmth and unity to a room.”
~ Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine July 1872

via History In Pictures @HistoryInPics  48-shot revolver from 1855
The kind of gun I imagine the Pcklemen might carry.

Random Things of Interest

  • Noted that there’s Professor Lefoux back-story in Blameless pg. 182, 190
  • Preshea Buss’s name… “Frances Mary Buss was the founder in 1850 of North London Collegiate School for girls, one of the earliest girls’ schools to focus on academic attainment.” ~ The Victorian House by Judith Flanders
  • Yes, Monique is based on a real person/people I knew in high school. Yes, I really didn’t like her. Apparently, she’s also a really bad whist partner.
  • Yes, I always intended to have Sophronia and Monique work together. Part of growing up is learning to function around people you dislike. In other words, the great and fateful… suck it up moment.
  • Parasol Protectorate readers: did you recognize a briefly introduced pansy-eyed blonde, one of the last ever students at Finishing School?

Book de Jour

Etiquette Finishing School Gail Carriger Shirt Team Soap


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

1870 Umbrella brooch shewhoworshipscarlin tumblr

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

cgmfindings-      art nouveau octopus brooch
Louis Aucoc      Paris 1900
gold, diamonds, rubies, pearls, and plique à jour enamel

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
5 Octopus Articles!

  1. Solitary Octopuses’ Strong Statements
  2.  The Octopus Can See With Its Skin
  3.  Amazing Facts About the Octopus
  4.  Octopus Genome Offers Insight into One of Ocean’s Cleverest Oddballs & Octopus Genome Reveals Seat Creature’s Secrets
  5. Zoo Seeks New Puzzles for Intelligent Octopus Ursula

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
“Word Hoard” and the Pitfalls of Dialogue Authenticity

Book News:
MK of Popcorn Reads says of the Finishing School series: “This series is making this Gail Carriger fan very happy. All of the fun elements from the Parasol Protectorate with a fresh new sbu-world within that world.”

Quote of the Day:

“Very good,” I said coldly. “In that case, tinkerty tonk.” And I meant it to sting.

~ Right Ho, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

Research into History of Women’s Education in England for Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


The Final Finishing School Book, Manners & Mutiny, releases next Tuesday. Eeep! Also, I just learned that Imprudence is available for pre-order here in the US. (Possibly elsewhere, but I can’t check that.)

Meanwhile, I had a wonderful time doing the Dork Forest with Jackie Kashian.

Here’s a glimpse into some of the research I did for the Finishing School series on girls’ schools and education.

  • 1848 Queen’s College, London = first women’s college
  • 1850 Miss Frances Mary Buss (1827 – 1894) starts the North London Collegiate School, hands over to a board in 1870 = first public day school (yes, Preshea’s last name came from her.)
  • 1858 Miss Dorothea Beal (a831 – 1906) appointed headmistress of Cheltenham Ladies College (founded 1854)


abellefilleart- tumblr: The Love Letter, Gustave-Leonard de Jonghe


Expelled = Sent Down
Suspended = Rusticated (to my great sadness I never got to use this word in my books)
Grounded = Gated


the-vortexx-tumblr Victorian slang terms you never knew existed


Traditional Lessons

  • History
  • Geology
  • Languages – Latin & French
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Literature
  • Daily Walk
  • Etiquette
  • Formal Graces
  • Study Hall
  • Read the Classics
via artofweddingspdx.com via enchanted-weddings tumblr


Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Lessons

  • Knot & embroidery communication
  • Breaking and writing in code
  • Picking pockets
  • Lip reading
  • Political history
  • Manipulation of perception
  • Assessing a room
  • Recruiting your network
  • Sabotage
  • Psychological warfare
  • Sign language
  • Search patterns
  • Spotting other spies
  • Maps & Tracking measurements
  • Recognizance

As you can see I used some of the notes, but not others. Also the language in my notebook is modern. I change the vocabulary and so forth for the names of the actual classes, and try to add twists of humor to the titles and descriptions.

steampunktendencies-      Giant Key West Chicken by Derek Arnold


The old rule of life was that Parliament Sessions don’t open until the frost is out of the ground and the foxes begin to breed. So politically minded aristocracy would begin to drift back to town in the early spring. The Season was then broken up into various necessary-to-attend events for girls coming out (age 17).

  • March: Non political families returned to town.
  • April: everyone is in town, Parliament is in session, and The Season begins in earnest.
  • May: Royal Academy of Art Annual Exhibition, Derby, and various court balls + concerts + private balls
  • June: Ascot
  • July: Henley Regatta and climactic cricket games: Oxford v. Cambridge and Eton v. Harrow
  • August 12: End of The Season, adjournment of Parliament, opening of grouse hunting season.
  • September 1: Partridge season
  • October 2: Pheasant season
  • November, first Monday: Fox hunting.

College sessions roughly followed the parliament/hunting model.  Christmas was spent at home in the country, January-March was Session One, then short Easter break, April-July/August was Session 2, September-December was Session 3 for Cambridge. Oxford had 4 sessions. Can you see why I avoided the whole messy business in my books?

Now this is for the mid to late Victorian Era (which is from 1837 to 1901, I tend to round 1840-1900). If you are interested int eh Regency Ear just prior (the time of Jane Austen) then here is a blog post on that subject: When was the London season?

“Miss Temminnick, you are in receipt of the highest marks we have ever given in a six-month review. Your mind seems designed for espionage.
Nevertheless, you veer away from perfect in matters of etiquette. Do not let these marks go to your head; there are many girls at this school who are better than you.
Our biggest concern is what you get up to when we are not watching. Because, if nothing else, this test has told us you are probably spying on us, as well as everyone around you.”
~ Gail Carriger, Curtsies & Conspiracies


1890s advice via questionableadvice tumblr

“The parents, loving their children too much to be incommoded themselves by any thing that their offspring can say or do, seem not aware that they can possibly interrupt or trouble the rest of the company.”
~ The Ladies’ Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

{Gail’s monthly read along for October is Jinn and Juice by Nicole Peeler}

Want more behind the scenes sneak peeks? Join the Chirrup


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Le Conseiller des Dames Date-  Monday, August 1, 1853 Item ID-  v. 36, plate 57

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
The Hidden Graffiti of Tate Britain

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
The Old Foodie: School Dinners, 1913

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
Women and the Cliches of the Literary Drunkard

Quote of the Day:
“I suppose he could have changed,” Neal said dryly. “I myself have noticed my growing resemblance to a daffodil.”
The other pages snorted.
Kel eyed her friend. “You do look yellow around the edges,” she told him, her face quite serious. “I hadn’t wanted to bring it up.”
“We daffodils like to have things brought up,” Neal said, slinging an arm around her shoulders. “It reminds us of spring.”
~ Tamora Pierce, Page: Book 2 of the Protector of the Small Quartet

Researching The Enigma Project & Victorian Spies for Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


So when I was doing research for the Finishing School series, Gentle Reader, I did a bunch of research into the Enigma Project.

It totally fascinated me (yes I’ve watched the various movies). Not a lot ended up making it into the books, but here is a peek at the vocabulary notes I took.

My first copy of Manners & Mutiny arrives in the office.


You can determine for yourself, Gentle Reader, what was actually utilized in the series.

  • Clandestine
  • Station X
  • Dispatches
  • Code Name
  • Cypher
  • Deception
  • Sensitive Information
  • Restrictions
  • Security
  • Secrets
  • Top Secret
  • Agent Provocateurs
  • Intelligencers
  • Unauthorized Disclosure
  • Compromise
  • Seal of the Confessional
  • Resources
  • Personnel Department
  • Protective Security
  • Vetting for Government Installation
  • Counter Espionage
  • Counter Insurgency
  • Domestic Surveillance
  • Registry

And then at the bottom in big letters I have scrawled:

Clandestine Scientific Information Act of 1885

Of course I ended up cutting the “Scientific” because that made it the CIA. And I can’t resist stuff like that.

the-vortexx-tumblr Victorian slang terms you never knew existed


More Resources on Victorian Spies


Want more behind the scenes sneak peeks? Join the Chirrup


The Book Nut says of Etiquette & Espionage: “Carriger has a way with this genre that makes it seem much more effortless than other authors who have tried the same.”


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Le Bon Ton Date-  Tuesday, March 1, 1853 Item ID-  v. 36, plate 31

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
19 Brilliant Umbrellas That Will Make Rainy Days Fun

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Female Spy: Mata Hari

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
8 Badass Ladies Who Changed Literature Forever

Quote of the Day:
“This is Waycross, after all—sneaking around in dark alleys is practically the national sport.”
~ Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald, By Honor Betray’d

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